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The biggest American elm.

So far the dreaded fungus hasn't crossed the Kansas plains to where this patriarch stands in regal isolation.

Kansas is better known for its amber waves of grain than for towering trees, but its only state forest boasts the largest average tree size east of California. Established a few years ago, the Louis Vieux State Forest is a unique old-growth forest in which every single tree is a national champion. Okay, so there's only one tree in this forest, which stretches across all of half an acre, but that one tree, an American elm, is indeed a champion.

More than perhaps any other tree, the American elm is entwined in our nation's history. Historic elms have been associated with William Penn, George Washington, Chief Logan, and Abraham Lincoln, to name only a few. In fact, it was an interest in history that led Ted Cunningham to discover the champion at a site where pioneers, following the Oregon Trail, forded the Vermillion River and paid a dollar toll to cross the land owned by Louis Vieux.

Ironically, the champion owes its regal status to Dutch elm disease, the bane of most of the nation's American elm trees. Dutch elm disease is caused by a fungus that hitchhikes from tree to tree on a tiny bark beetle. The beetles were brought to America in 1909 in shipments of European elm logs imported to make veneer. The Louis Vieux elm was crowned in 1979 after the then-national champion succumbed to the deadly fungus. It was dethroned in 1986 by an elm in Virginia but regained the crown two years later when that tree also fell victim to the disease.

There is as yet no cure for Dutch elm disease, and the fungus continues to spread. However, researchers have developed American elms that are more resistant to the fungus, raising hopes for a future graced by these stately trees. Meanwhile, the 277-year-old champion keeps on growing, safely isolated out on the Kansas plain.
Common Name American elm
Scientific Name Ulmus americana
Location Louisville, Kansas
Nominator Gary Naughton
Owner State of Kansas
Most Recent Measurement 1991
Circumference at 4 1/2 feet 312 in.
Height 100 ft.
Crown Spread 91 ft.
Total Points 435

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Title Annotation:American elm tree at the Louis Vieux State Forest, Louisville, Kansas
Author:Bronaugh, Whit
Publication:American Forests
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:A geography of state trees.
Next Article:The last mountain.

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