Saturday, November 21, 2009

Smith College Botanical Gardens Camperdown Elm

Three weeks ago.

Today I would like to take you back to the Smith College Botanical Gardens to go under one of my favorite trees ... a Camperdown Elm just outside the Plant House. The leaves have all fallen now but when I first took these photos there were still some holding on.  We can see the wildly weeping forms of its canopy. Once beneath the umbrella-like sweep of boughs we enter into a secret realm hidden by the falling zigzagging branches somewhat secretive when the leaves are still attached. Here the graft between the Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) and the Camperdown Elm is clearly visible. It is told that the Earl of Camperdown of Dundee Scotland had a forester who eyed an unusually distorted limb growing along the forest floor and he gave it to the gardener who grafted it to a Wych Elm... now how did he know that was the only compatible species the Camperdown would take to? He must have tried a few others or just got lucky. It is said that every Camperdown Elm on the planet is connected to the original root stock ... every cutting was taken from the first "mutant" cutting... can that be true?? If my information is correct, it seems sadly that every cultivar in England is lost... victims of Dutch Elm Disease. In North America the disease does not care for the Wych Elm for some odd reason. I hope it remains that finicky.  You can see the form of this bizarrely beautiful tree more clearly in the last six images. There is a sign hanging from the Camperdown asking people not to climb on the tree... this would indicate to me that it is somewhat fragile. I have visited this sage often over the last thirty years and I trust it will continue to stand and inspire all who happen to see it. 

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