VOLUME 25 #3

Current cover


The elms are back

Elm tree

CAMPUS | The University of Delaware wants to go back in time—back to the days when rows of stately elms stood as emblems of an enviable campus beauty, shading students between classes and draping The Green with a comforting air of seclusion.

Now, after steadily vanishing over the past few decades, the broad-canopy elms are returning, thanks to an ongoing effort to honor the vision of UD’s original landscape designers. In all, 11 of the beloved trees are being planted this fall along the North Green—some of them plugging gaps where UD’s original elms had been felled by disease or construction projects; others as replacements for a substitute tree called the zelkova that never quite rose to expectations.

The new elms, a cultivar known as ‘Princeton,’ are resistant to the Dutch elm disease that gradually killed many majestic American elm trees in the latter part of the 20th century—only two still stand on the North Green. In time, the elms will more faithfully emulate the “canopy” effect envisioned by Frank Miles Day and Marian Cruger Coffin, the original designers of The Green and its surroundings.

UD was once home to 160 American elms, which were revered around the world for their connection to historic events and for their aesthetic grandeur before being decimated by a fungus spread by the invasive elm bark beetle. Arborists frantically worked to save UD’s specimens for years, recognizing their value to UD’s identity and to The Green’s utility as a place to study and play.

“The Green is iconic, and today people are encouraged to use it,” said Mike Loftus, UD’s assistant director of grounds services. “It’s not just a place for people to look at.”