- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

The National Mall is full of museums and memorials, but an alley in Dupont Circle is home to one of the biggest and largest natural monuments in the District — a 200-year-old American elm tree.

The tree, which grows in an alley between Q and Corcoran streets off New Hampshire Avenue in Northwest, was planted more than 200 years ago behind a house owned by Andrew Jackson before he became president. It is about 90 inches in diameter and stands more than three stories tall.

Now, the tree, known as the Jackson tree, is battling Dutch elm disease, a potentially fatal condition, and with the help and care of several nearby residents, the tree is beating the odds.

The neighborhood spends nearly $3,000 a year managing and caring for the tree, said Earl Eutsler, an arborist for the D.C. Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Administration.

During Jackson’s time, the area now known as Dupont Circle consisted mostly of farmland, a healthy environment for the tree to grow in.

Today, the tree is rooted in an alley between two apartment buildings, so it is remarkable that it has lived for so long, Mr. Eutsler said.

“In a healthy functioning environment, these trees can live just short of infinitely,” he said. “In an urban environment, it is uncommon for a tree to live over 100 years old because of urban threats such as Dutch elm disease.”

Kathleen A. Lynch, president of the Corcoran Mews Condominium Association, said the tree is mainly taken care of by two residents. They pay for the pruning and the injections that the tree needs every other year to prevent the spread of Dutch elm disease.

Dutch elm disease is the equivalent of a heart attack and occurs when a fungus clogs the vessels that allow trees to transport water, Mr. Eutsler said.

About 40 years ago, the neighborhood installed a hub-and-spoke cabling system inside the tree’s canopy to help the tree support its massive branches, Mr. Eutsler said.

In addition to helping with the tree’s weighty limbs, the cable system also will help the tree withstand harsh weather.

“The [cabling] allows the tree to still move but prevents the limbs from tearing apart from pressure,” he said. “Every time we have a wet snow, hurricane or an event that puts stress on the tree, these things all exert forces on the tree that could tear the tree apart.”

Mr. Eutsler estimated that the tree has survived more than 100 hurricanes.

Miss Lynch said the Jackson tree gets many visitors.

“Sometimes you will look out of your window and you’ll see a whole crew standing underneath the tree lecturing,” she said. “We all enjoy it because it’s so big and beautiful.”

Mr. Eutsler said: “Assuming we don’t have an errant person who runs into the tree or a natural event that rips the tree apart, we have every reason to believe that the tree will live for many more years to come.”

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