European elm scale threatens to destroy a part of NAU’s history

Daughters of American Revolution

The Coconino chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution is reaching out to save an important part of NAU’s heritage.

The George Washington Elm tree, located on north campus outside of Old Main, is a high profile part of the NAU campus. The historical significance of this elm reaches back to July 3, 1775. On this day George Washington was sworn in as commander of the Continental Army under an Ulmus Americana Elm in Cambridge, Mass.

Since then, the organization and the NAU grounds crew have attentively maintained the elm. It is one of few surviving trees grown from the original clippings. Its future is now in jeopardy due to an infestation of European elm scale. Scale insects can cause weakening of an elm’s branches, premature leaf yellowing and dropping, and the eventual death of the tree. Susan Olberding, former regent of the Coconino chapter of DAR, explained, “Scale pretty much ‘zaps’ all of the energy out of a tree.”In an effort to prolong this tree’s legacy, clippings of the tree were sent to universities throughout the country. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birthday, the Daughters of the American Revolution planted these clippings on NAU’s campus in 1931.

The elm tree still stands before the Gammage building.
The elm tree still stands before the Gammage building.

In December DAR donated $1,000 to NAU to help fund the elm’s treatment process. Brad Blake, Bilby Research Center Laboratory manager, said the money will mostly go to future maintenance of the tree. Joan Brudige-Baker, DAR’s former regent of the Coconino chapter and NAU alumna, said, “The ladies have been looking after the tree since 1931. NAU grounds crew has taken good care of the tree and kept it alive for all these years, but now this historic tree is sick and ailing.”

DAR and NAU grounds are in search of volunteer groups who are interested in adopting the tree and helping with its upkeep. Blake emphasizes that in order to maintain the tree’s heritage “the important thing is that current NAU students and staff care about it.” Students who are interested in the maintenance of the tree can contact Blake at