Georgetown’s Elms

Q St. - Georgetown's "Elm Street"

As the fruits of Ginkgogate still lay festering on our sidewalks, it may be a tad difficult to look up at our trees with much warmth these days. However, many don’t realize that at least one Georgetown street is like an arbor Brigadoon. That’s because despite the wide scale ravages of Dutch Elms Disease, Georgetown still has a decent collection of American Elms. In particular, a walk down Q St. is like a walk back through time.

Find out why after the jump:

As many people know, American Elms once lined city streets across the nation. There were valued for the hardiness and shape. By arranging them correctly, a city could create a beautiful cathedral-like tree canopy. Sadly, in 1928 a strain of Dutch Elm’s Disease arrived to this country in a shipment of imported lumber. Over the next 50 years, the disease systematically advanced through the nation, leaving ravaged and barren city streets in its wake.

Fortunately, through a mix of luck and good stewardship, at least some locations saved their elms. Most famously, Literary Walk in New York’s Central Park still remains a beautiful showpiece for this amazing species.

However, Washingtonians need not travel all the way to New York to see American Elms. According to Casey Trees, there are over 8,000 American Elms still alive on the streets of D.C. Moreover, according to Trees For Georgetown, there are about 84 American Elms in Georgetown alone.

Many of those 84 Elms are on Q St., east of Wisconsin. Perhaps what makes this stretch of street most special is that it still features the cathedral-like canopy:

Cathedral Canopy

Casey Trees lists most of these trees to be in a healthy condition. Nonetheless, there always remains a risk that Dutch Elms Disease can take hold of this concentration of trees. Needless to say, but Q St. just wouldn’t be the same without these majestic trees.

Also, if you’re not familiar with Casey Trees, it is a fantastic organization founded eight years ago as a result of a grant from local philanthropist Betty Brown Casey. Mrs. Casey was alarmed at the loss of tree canopy the city had suffered and wanted to fund an organization dedicated to repairing that canopy. Casey Trees works to manage and monitor live trees and to plant new trees. In Georgetown, Casey Trees works closely with CAG’s Trees for Georgetown.

One of the more interesting and wonky things that Casey Trees has done is to perform a street-by-street audit of all street trees in the District. You can search their map and find out information about every street tree in the entire city. For instance, GM’s favorite Elm, which is on the corner of Q and 30th, has this information:


Elm, American (ID: CA-0656-107)Scientific Name: Ulmus americana
Tree Value: $ 13,710

Height: 60 feetDiameter at Breast Height: 30 inchesCrown Radius: 30 feet
Leaf Area: 297.63 m2Leaf Biomass: 88.38 kgLeaf Area Index: 4.94

Overhead Wires: None Tree Grate: None
Curb: Permanent Sidewalk: Permanent

Carbon Storage: 1451.76 kg
Carbon Sequestration: 28.01 kg/year
Carbon Monoxide Removed: 132.455 g/year
Ozone Removed: 1153.292 g/year
Nitrogen Oxide Removed: 384.205 g/year
Particulate Matter Removed: 773.282 g/year
Sulfur Dioxide Removed: 382.906 g/year
Total Pollution Removed: $ 14.6271 /year
Tree Value: $ 13,710


GM thinks it’s worth a lot more than $13,000, by the way.

And finally, for the American Elm enthusiasts out there, it should be mentioned that in 2005 Casey Trees planted 90 new disease-resistant American Elm trees on Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House.  Coming on four years later, they’re all about 20 feet tall and look very healthy. Pennsylvania Avenue is probably too wide for the trees to create a true cathedral effect, but with luck in about 30 years the White House’s block will be beautifully shaded through the long summer months.

Do you have any favorite Elms in Georgetown or the rest of the city? Are there any other Elm canopies like Q St.?



Filed under Around Town

3 responses to “Georgetown’s Elms

  1. Pingback: Favorite Things – #9 – Q St. Elms «

  2. Pingback: Tree Week: Notable Georgetown Trees «

  3. Pingback: Grand Q St. Elm Ailing | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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