WATERVILLE — A giant elm tree in Castonguay Square downtown that serves as an enduring reminder of the city’s historic nickname is in pretty good health, thanks to meticulous care in recent years.

Noah Tucker, arborist for Bartlett Tree Experts of Scarborough, made that determination Wednesday after inspecting the venerable landmark at the request of City Manager Michael Roy, who said the city is trying to ensure that the more-than-a-century-old tree stays healthy.

“As far as we know, this is by far the oldest elm in the Elm City,” Roy said.

Years ago, many elms lined the streets of the city. But in the 1950s and ’60s, Dutch elm disease ravaged the trees and the city had to cut them down.

“My cousin Bob lived just off Elm Street and remembers the sound of chain saws taking down the elms, and he was 9 or 10 and that was in the early ’60s,” Roy said.

The elm in Castonguay Square between Main and Front streets, nicknamed “Ellie” by Roy, is taller than City Hall. Tucker and city officials estimate the tree is about 75 feet tall, 40 inches in diameter at its trunk and 120 to 150 years old..

“We’ve been fertilizing it every year,” Tucker said. “We’ve been injecting a slow-release fertilizer for the tree’s health, and in the past, we’ve also done Dutch elm treatment.”

Tucker recommended certain roots near the ground’s surface at the base of the tree be removed because they are strangling the tree’s other roots. Otherwise, the tree appears healthy. A seam in the bark along the north side of the tree is healing and closing nicely, according to Tucker.

“They’ve been on top of it,” he said of city officials. “They’ve been proactive in the health of the tree.”

Asked if he has seen larger elms than the one in Castonguay Square, Tucker said mentioned an elm nicknamed “Herbie” in Yarmouth and another in Scarborough, but said both were removed because they had health problems.

“You have a large green space here and you’re not impacting the root zone, and that’s key; and the less equipment you put near it the better off you’ll be,” he said.

All in all, the city’s tree has been low-maintenance, according to Tucker, who said he pruned it four or five years ago.

“Since then, every three years we’ve been injecting the tree for Dutch elm disease,” he said. “All things considered, it’s in pretty good health.”

Roy said he knows of a couple of other elm trees remaining in Waterville, including one at Eustis Parkway and North Street, near Thayer Center for Health.

“I’d be happy if other people could give us an inventory of what else is left for elm trees in the city,” Roy said. “Maybe we could take some of the same measures to protect what we do have.”


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