Our two English elms date back to the original layout of Madison Square Park. Both trees stand proudly at the north end of the park, one on the oval lawn and the other behind the Farragut monument. While there are no surviving records confirming their age, they are both believed to be around 200 years old. The trees were preserved in 1870, when the park was formally redesigned by the landscape architect Ignatz Pilat.
The park has performed major preventative surgery on these elms multiple times to help reduce the weight of their branches. While this may make them look a bit strange, the younger and lighter branches will help them survive for years to come. These fresh branches help their photosynthesis without adding weight to their old trunks.
Nowadays elms are rarely cultivated in the United States because of Dutch elm disease. But at one time elm trees were abundant in neighborhoods across the United States. Dutch elm disease was first reported in the United States in 1928, and by 1989 it had destroyed 75% of the estimated 77 million elms in the country.