¡Yo la tengo!

One of the things I was hoping would happen with this blog is that people would contact me with questions, requests, stories to share about trees. The first such contact asks about a tree in the Overlook Park.  (Thank you, Cheryl!)  It’s pictured on the band Yo La Tengo’s  album cover, Fade.  I’d like to know how a band from Hoboken, NJ has a photo shoot in Portland, OR.

(Late addition:  Here’s a Willamette Week interview with Portland photographer, Carlie Armstrong, who was hired by the band’s record company.)

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I searched around to see if the species of this tree was identified anywhere.  It’s a gigantic elm, but I don’t know what kind.  I found this heritage tree elm identification key by Phyllis Reynolds, so I went to take some photos and collect a few leaves. Without seeds, I’m still unsure about the identification of this tree. American elm, Ulmus americana? The leaf shape, size, double serration, and number of veins and the ropey bark match up. Let’s go with that for now.

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Inside that curtain of foliage-clothed weeping limbs:

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From which direction was the album cover shot taken?  One thing is certain — the tree no longer looks the way it did for the album cover shoot.

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The first tree lost to Dutch elm disease in Portland was in Overlook Park in 1977.  Dutch elm disease was first identified by a researcher in the Netherlands in 1922, but the fungal disease originates in Asia where elm species are more resistant to the disease than American and European species.  It is spread by bark beetles, underground through the root system, and by human activity.  Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry keeps busy monitoring trees for this incurable and devastating disease, treating through inoculation, and removing infected trees (42 trees in 2012). Detailed information, including annual reports, are available about the City of Portland Elm Protection Program.

Overlook Park is home to many beautiful trees, located on N. Interstate Ave at N. Fremont.

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5 Responses to ¡Yo la tengo!

  1. Julie Fukuda says:

    The Elms I am familiar with in Ohio had wide spreading shape, something like the Zelkova. Sadly there are none of those left either than in my old neighborhood or on the college campus.

  2. annamadeit says:

    I have spent many an hour under that tree, during my kids’ soccer practices – rain or shine! It is such a magnificent tree! My husband who usually doesn’t *see* plants (or trees) clued me into the fact that it was on Yo La Tengo’s cover. I guess the Overlook Elm has power even over him! Devastated to see it has been afflicted too… it is such a treasure!

  3. Ricki Grady says:

    I actually love the way it looks with the leafy parts cut away to expose the wonderful architecture of the trunk and limbs. I do hope that no further surgery is needed and the tree survives.

  4. Håkon S says:

    Thanks for solving my question. Me and my wife asked Ira Kaplan at the merch table befor a Yo La Tengo concert in Oslo, Norway last year, what kind of tree that is on the cover of the record. He didn´t know what kind, but new it was in a park in Portland OR. Maybe he still does not know. My favorite us city by far is Portland, not least because I met my wife there. After the concert I found the answer (most likely at least) at this blog. It makes me happy when I find someone who is so thoroughly seeking answers and knowledge as you do. Knowing and naming is a way to understand is giving way to love I guess. Big old trees is something to connect to. Maybe it´s the knowledge that they have been right here for maybe a couple of centuries or more that gives the soothing feeling when I see one. Next time in Portland we have to visit Overlook park!

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