The Newport Tree Society and the Newport Division of Forestry have instituted a new Beech & Elm Treatment Program designed to lengthen the lifespan of some of our most revered specimen trees.
EUROPEAN BEECH TREES
Aquidneck Island boasts some of the world’s most ideal conditions for the cultivation of the European Beech and the city of Newport is renowned for its collection of specimen beeches. In recent decades, however, arborists and tree lovers have noted the unexpected early death of beech trees with a normal lifespan of 100 to 150 years.
Although research is still in its preliminary stages, arborists have pinpointed soil pathogens of the genus, Phytophthora, as the primary instigator of early decline in the European Purple Beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ (also known as the Copper Beech) and other European Beech species and cultivars in the northeast. Beeches weakened by the fungus develop bleeding cankers and a further susceptibility to secondary pests. These secondary blights include infestation by the ambrosia beetle (and its fungal symbiont) which colonize the sapwood of dying trees, and the two-lined chestnut borer, Agrilus bilineatus, which feeds on inner bark and leaves.
AMERICAN ELM TREES
As with many New England cities and towns, Newport was once widely planted with American Elms until the arrival of the devastating fungal disease, Dutch elm disease, on the island.
The American Elm, Ulmus americana, was a dominant tree in cities because of its unusually long and elegant vase-shaped trunk that holds its canopy well above utility lines. American cities which used elms as their primary shade tree had had some of the finest urban tree canopies in the nation until the disease obliterated their elm population in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This illustrates an important argument against monoculture and the importance of species diversity in an urban forest.
Dutch elm disease is caused by two fungi, Ophiostoma ulmi and Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, carried by the elm bark beetle (or vectored through root contact with nearby infected trees). Fungicidal injections have been proven to prevent infection in currently healthy trees.
Newport is fortunate to still have a magnificent American Elm still standing in front of the Newport Courthouse (Florence K. Murray Judicial Complex) in Washington Square. This elm, along with two other specimen elms in the Common Burial Ground, will receive treatments to extend their lifespan and strengthen their natural defenses against Dutch elm disease.
Newport’s Beech & Elm Tree Treatment Program will involve the installation of supportive structural cables and the application of Agri-Fos® Systemic Fungicide for ailing trees over a 3-year period. Agri-Fos® is a proven and safe treatment which combats tree pathogens such as Phytophthora and Ophiostoma and boosts a tree’s natural immune system.
Proposed treatment sites include: Aquidneck Park, City Hall, Storer Park, Battery Park, Congdon Park, William Ellery Park, Eisenhower Park and the Common Burial Ground. The installation of supportive cables by the Newport Division of Forestry has already commenced.