An English Elm tree that has shaded the front lawn of Elkridge's historic Belmont Manor for more than 250 years has an incurable disease and will be cut down sometime this month, Howard County Recreation & Parks Director John Byrd announced Friday.
The tree, which stands 95 feet tall and is the second largest of its kind in the state, has Dutch Elm Disease, a devastating fungal illness spread by the elm bark beetle, according to a county press release.
A test run by the Plant Diagnostic Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park confirmed the diagnosis, county officials said.
The elm has been on the Howard County Champion Trees register, which catalogues old trees in the community, for more than 20 years. It's stood in front of the manor house since the Dorseys, the original owners, lived there, according to Byrd.
"It breaks our heart to see this grand specimen tree succumb to this devastating disease," he said in a statement. "This tree has been a living connection to the very beginning of Howard County in Elkridge, and the Dorsey Family. Imagine the stories it could tell."
This isn't the first time Howard County trees have come under attack: in 2011, entomologists found the invasive Emerald Ash Borer on ash trees in Jessup and Columbia.
Recreation & Parks officials said they hoped to stem the spread of Dutch Elm Disease disease to other trees on the Belmont property by cutting down the sick elm. The county has treated all elms on the grounds for the disease since acquiring Belmont in 2012, but trees can still be affected despite these preventive measures, officials said.
The county plans to plant two resistant American elm cultivars to replace the elm once the soil has had time to rest, according to the release.
Belmont Manor was opened to the public in April after nearly three years of restoration work. The historic house and grounds are available for weddings, conferences and other events, and are also the site of a summer movie series.