Natural lace / by Mario Mirabile

The elm tree is native to the northern hemisphere where it’s a component of many natural forests. During the 19th century, elms became a popular ornamental tree and were widely planted in parks, streets and gardens. They also spread to the southern hemisphere, carried by emigrants keen to transplant a small piece of their homelands. However, during the latter part of the 20th century, a fatal fungus called Dutch elm disease ravaged populations throughout Europe and North America, leading to the death of most mature specimens. One place the disease didn’t reach is Australia. The mature elms of Australia’s parks and gardens are regarded as some of the most significant in the world.

The golden elm growing in my front garden is probably pushing up toward 100 years old, but I doubt it’s on any register of significant trees. It’s a pretty tree that provides shade and some measure of privacy from the street.  It also provides plenty of raking and gutter cleaning in the autumn. While Australia is safe (at least for the time being) from Dutch elm disease, there are other pests which prey on these trees. One is the elm leaf beetle. Thankfully it’s rarely fatal, but it can still cause considerable unsightly damage to the leaves. I've had my tree treated, but the beetles can still spread from neighbouring untreated trees. There’s a certain beauty in the fine lacework they create, but it can’t be doing the tree any good. At least it’s not Dutch elm disease.