For Earth Day, King Elmer tree in Lanesborough gets royal treatment

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LANESBOROUGH — King Elmer is in pretty good shape for having been around since the American Revolution.

The estimated 255-year-old American elm, showing its age in spots, still proudly towers over Summer Street near the corner of South Main Street.

On Earth Day, King Elmer's caretakers and a local tree surgeon worked to ensure one of the state's oldest champion elms stands tall for decades to come.

The Lanesborough Tree and Forest Committee on Monday morning supervised the four hours of maintenance work that Ron Yaple and his crew from Race Mountain Tree Services in Sheffield performed on the elm.

Yaple, tree company owner and certified arborist, supervised the pruning of any dead wood, inspected potential decay of an old pruning wound at the base of the first large branch, and examined the extent of decay at a hole about 40 feet high. The tree experts also trimmed the lowest hanging branch over Summer Street to relieve some of the weight, lessening the chance it will break off.

The Race Mountain crew were surprised to find they weren't alone in the tree, according to committee member Paula Byrdy.

"One man climbed near the top and found a raccoon living there. He left it alone," she said.

From ground level, Byrdy and others watched and documented the pruning and trimming, last done in 2012. In order to keep King Elmer from succumbing to Dutch elm disease, the tree is scheduled next year for another inoculation against the deadly infection that nearly wiped out elms in the Untied States and Canada during the 20th century.

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The volunteer tree committee, first appointed by the Select Board in 2003, works to maintain, promote and improve the health of all trees on town land, especially the one that has come to symbolize the community.

"[King Elmer] is what defines Lanesborough. What would Stockbridge be if the Red Lion Inn burned down," committee chairman Jim Neureuther said in an Eagle interview prior to Monday's tree work.

King Elmer is looking to recapture its glory as one of the largest elms in the commonwealth. In 2000, the state designated the Lanesborough tree as the Grand Champion Elm based on height, circumference of the trunk and average crown. King Elmer, so named by local third-graders in 2010, lost the top honor in 2016 to an elm in Old Deerfield Village, with an elm in Hatfield coming in second place. Last October, Neureuther took new measurements of King Elmer that, if certified by the state, would elevate the Lanesborough tree as the second largest in Massachusetts.

"That tree is a freak of nature; in very good form for its age," noted Neureuther.

King Elmer is the local landmark that best represents Lanesborough. The tree's winter silhouette was the cover photo for the town's annual report publish in 2003. Three years ago, the elm was a highlighted historical stop during the 250th anniversary of Lanesborough being incorporated as a town.

Furthermore, King Elmer is the center of attention when the tree committee conducts a daylong learning program for Arbor Day with third-graders at Lanesborough Elementary School on Summer Street.

Since 2015, the committee has also created arboretum areas at the school and Laston Park, planting a diverse total of 42 saplings representing 25 types of trees.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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