City Trees

September/October 2021

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40 CityTREES Eco Projects monitors biodiversity in Washington Square Park, so we keep track of plant-animal inter- actions in the landscape. Birds and squirrels eat the elm fruit. The list of birds who forage in the English elm include American goldfinch, blue jay, house finch, red-tailed hawk, American redstart, northern parula, black-and-white warbler, downy wood- pecker, northern flicker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, tufted titmouse, white-crowned sparrow, brown creeper, and white-breasted nuthatch. Squirrels reg- ularly nest and shelter in the English elm's hollows, but they are not the only ones. On November 13, 2019, I noticed a raccoon using one of the hollows! English elms (winter hardy to Zone 5a) are known to be tolerant of air pollution, a wide range of soil pH and soil textures, some salt spray, and they can grow in sun or partial shade. The many virtues of the English elm would make it an excellent urban tree. However, because of their vulnerability to Dutch elm disease, they are not practical as new additions to the urban landscape. This makes the presence of the rare mature English elms, like the enormous specimen in Washington Square Park, that much more special. A look at the whole, massive English elm tree, which provides cavities and foraging for birds, squirrels, and at least one raccoon. Winged seeds of English elm.

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