The City of Hillsboro has some of its staff working in the historic Old Orenco District to remove some diseased elm trees that have succumb to Dutch Elm disease. The historic grove of elms in Orenco is protected by the State of Oregon and is recognized as one of the last great stands that have not fallen to the deadly disease. Without the efforts of our City staff, the trees could all be dead within five years; it is a crucial and appreciated effort.
Last year we wrote the story below about this same subject as the first-ever outbreak had occurred, and one of the trees had to be cut. Arborists inoculated the trees to try to prevent the spread of this killer. Despite those efforts, some of the adjacent trees did not wake up this Spring, and it appears the entire grove is not threatened.
Last Years Story is below:
Anyone who has walked under these giants in Summer will know the coolness and shade they provide. This time of year, they are ablaze with golds, and yellows like no other trees share. Annual the Evening Grossbeaks migrate into the grove for a snack of elm seeds. They spend about three weeks in the canopy squawking and eating before flying South. The Grove is special, and anyone that enters the historic district will feel it.
The Oregon Nursery Company (ORENCO) was established in 1906. ORENCO was the largest nursery on the west coast at the time. A nationally known nursery, ORENCO shipped its nursery stock all over the country on the Oregon Electric Railroad line which is now used by MAX light-rail.
Subsequent employee-owned housing rapidly grew into a company town and nicknamed Orenco, after the company’s acronym. The township was platted in 1908, and incorporated as a city in 1913 with approximately 500 residents.
ORENCO planted hundreds of street trees, primarily elms but also birch and oak. Orenco’s historic American elm street trees (Ulmus Americana) are said to have been planted in 1912 by company employees.
Now 110 years old, the trees are in trouble. If the disease can be stopped, then the grove can be saved. If not, history tells us that it only takes a few years for them all to become sick. Over time it is very likely we could lose them all. I was a child when I first met these beautiful trees; we grew up on NW Dogwood Street and had several that line our front yard. For me, they are extra special, and each year, I tend to shoot a few photos of them. If you have never seen them and their splendor, now is the time to do it! This probably won’t be your last chance, thanks to the City of Hillsboro continuing the fight, but you never know.
Here are photos I have from between 1912 and today. You can see the massive trunks and stumps that were cut this past week to stop the spread of the disease.