Islanders mourn death of landmark elm tree

A piece of Island heritage has come crashing down. Residents in eastern P.E.I say gale-force winds earlier this month knocked down an American elm tree, believed to be centuries old.

Forestry officials not sure how old tree is

Residents tell stories about how this tree was around when Jacques Cartier first sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (CBC)

A piece of Island heritage has come crashing down. Residents in eastern P.E.I say gale-force winds earlier this month knocked down an American elm tree, believed to be centuries old.

Now, local people like Fred Cheverie are coming to pay their last respects.

"Everything I guess is supposed to die at some point going through, but it's one of those landmarks that every family's got a picture taken with it.  Everybody came to visit.  It’s just so enormous that people could relate to it,” he said.

For generations, the American elm was a landmark in eastern P.E.I., surviving fire and disease.

Residents boast that it was around when Jacques Cartier first sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but forestry officials say they have no record of its actual age.

"It would be interesting to see if we could get a slice off the bottom to see how old it actually was.  But it's relatively hard to tell.  Just because it's big does not necessarily mean it's old, old,” said Ken Mayhew, an information officer with the province's Forestry Fish and Wildlife Division.

Just one of those landmarks that you have in your area that’s gone and it kind of hurts in that way.-Fred Cheverie

Foresters say the oldest trees on P.E.I. are 200 to 300 years old.

Decay in the trunk of the old elm could make its age difficult to determine.

But the old tree still has something to give.

“If the landowners leave it on the site there, it is going to continue to contribute to the forest environment in that area for probably for centuries, as it releases the energy and nutrients it has stored over the centuries,” said Mayhew.

Cheverie said residents continue to visit the site and he says it'll remain a highlight for eco-tours.

“It was probably spiritual to some people,” he said.

“Just one of those landmarks that you have in your area that’s gone and it kind of hurts in that way."

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