The Oak and the Elm Tree
Narrowing this vast amount of species down to the most widespread of the broadleaved trees would be the mighty oak and will be compared with the American elm for their beauty. In nature, the oaks hold their own well in competition with the other trees. The oak is a large tree growing to heights of thirty-five to one hundred feet tall. Their leaves are of the most dramatic in shape, which are described as being pinnately veined and pinnately lobed.
Meaning the main vein runs through the leaf to its tip and smaller veins branch out, also having deep wavy outline indentations which extend half way or more to the midrib, giving it a hand-like feature. In contrast, the American elm is also a large tree that grows to a height of forty to ninety feet tall and has a simple, short oval shaped leaf that is saw-toothed and lopsided at the base. The trunk of both trees is described as being similar in most ways, thick and covered with furrowed gray bark. The trunks grow lateral with broad branches opening up into a beautiful crown.
In time, these dome-headed trees will spread its branches needing a lot of growing space for the canopy. The beauty of the oak tree gives way as it sways in a gentle breeze and flutters its leaves as if waving a happy welcome to anyone who may pass. The elm tree swaying in the same breeze illustrates a simple flat wave. A tree isn’t just for a season; it is for life. The quality of life for these trees depends on the care they might receive. To grow, a tree needs a period of more than two months each year without frost; some need certain soil conditions, and plenty of water and light.
The normal age span of trees is different for each species. An average oak tree may take as many as on hundred years to mature and may live for as long as four hundred fifty years, whereas, some elms live more that on hundred fifty years. Both the oak and elm trees are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves. All deciduous trees are broad-leaved. One of the most appealing aspects of deciduous trees is their signaling of fall by the changing color of their leaves. The oak has rich leaf color that change during the fall from the many shades of green to red, orange, yellow, purple, and every imaginable tint.
The simple on-step change of the elm leaves turn from a glossy green to yellow in the fall. Both trees loose their leaves completely and go dormant during the winter months. Diseases endanger each species of trees. The gypsy moth favors the oak leaves, the caterpillars dine on the foliage. “But scientists have counterattacked with a variety of weapons…pesticides, insect-eating birds, and even processed scents called pheromones, which lure insects into traps” (Page 117). One of importance is a wasp that preys on the gypsy moth caterpillar.
The wasp lay their eggs on the skin of the caterpillar and when the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on their host, and kill them in the process. Elm bark beetles spread Dutch elm disease from tree to tree. “It is a potentially very dangerous and fatal disease to which all of our native elms are highly susceptible” (Grimm 191). The beetles attack the living tree and form tunnels under the bark and the adult carries the spores of the disease from tree to tree. Affected trees show sever wilting and yellowing of the leaves on one or several branches, especially during periods of dry weather. There is no effective chemical treatment.
Pruning and burning out affected branches are most effective. In many cases it is disease that shortens a tree’s life. Trees are the source of materials we need for many everyday purposes. The strong wood of the oak has a beautiful grain. An important use of oak is for lumber, but also has other uses such as furniture, flooring, paneling, barrels, railroad ties, and ship keels. Some of the oak species contain tannin, found in the wood and the bark, and is used for preparing leather. Some oaks are grown for landscaping in personal gardens to provide shade and to show off their natural beauty.
The oaks acorns are an important source of food for wildlife. The elm also has been used for many sources of everyday uses. The wood of the elm is tough, hard, and does not split easily. It is used for making barrels, farm tools, fence post, hockey sticks, furniture, and boats. Elms are used in landscaping too. They are planted along streets and in parks. Trees provide us with oxygen, lumber, and among other things, fuel, to heat our homes. Trees have also provided young children with hours of fun while climbing and exploring the world above ground.
Trees provide a place to build clubhouses, tree houses, or a comfortable branch to read a book. In Oregon, a family vacation might include a few nights stay “in one of twenty tree houses created by Michael Garnier at Out’n’About Treesort” (Nolan6). If trees could talk, our American history might have to or could be rewritten. Under these trees, agreements and treaties have been made. A historic tree in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, shades union soldiers graves. “The mighty limbs of the Treaty Oak in Jacksonville, Florida, are said to have sheltered natives and settlers during peace treaty talks” (Brown 6).
Various species of trees have played an important public role as the center for meetings. “The Washington Elm, under which George Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in 1775, remained standing for many years in Cambridge, Massachusetts” (Jonas 186). Much of the nation’s history lives in thousands of trees, and we might be touching history and not even realize it. Again, trees enter into the lives of us all. It could be the piece of furniture we sit on, a tree planted in a yard for shade, or the oxygen we breath, but most of all, the beauty a tree provides in our outdoor surroundings.