A Smooth-Leaf Elm, severely injured and clinging to life for four years at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, was cut across its trunk and finally put to rest.
A stump is all that remains of a 56-foot beauty that was an innocent bystander of the Garden’s $2.5-million, city-financed entrance, built in late 2003.
The nightmare for this elm began in late 2003, a Garden staff member said, when construction of the new entrance on Eastern Parkway began. Contractors dug trenches for pipes on all sides of the tree, cutting into its root system, and thus beginning this elm’s demise.
Smooth-Leaf Elms, a hardy species, are capable of withstanding extreme cold and heat — but apparently not extreme construction.
A spokeswoman for the Botanic Garden, Leeann Lavin, declined to discuss the cause of the tree’s death, saying only, “It’s been sick for a while.”
The construction work occurred over a weekend, when staffers were not around, one employee said. When they returned, the beloved elm was fatally wounded.
“It started without us knowing,” a staff horticulturist told The Brooklyn Paper. “Then it would have cost too much money to stop and dig in some other place,”
Trees with injured root systems can take up to five years to show signs of injury. But this tree was dead on its roots long before that.
Ironically, it’s not the first possible arborcide at the tree-loving 52-acre oasis. The last time the Botanic Garden took on a major construction project — building its famed conservatory — several maple trees were lost (albeit by design).
Those maples were long ago mourned. The Smooth-Leaf Elm is still causing fresh sadness at the Garden.
“It would be nice if they wrote on those stumps to say what they were and why they did it,” a nearly 20-year volunteer said.
Despite some workers’ funereal mood, the Garden is already gearing up for its next slaughter of the innocents.
The 16th-century Elizabethan herb garden, built in 1938, will be eradicated this fall to make room for a new Visitor Center, the first “green” building at the Garden.