J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not the Washington Dogwood!

Last month I posted a series of articles about the Washington Elm on Cambridge common (starting here), which tried to trace the growth and felling of a famous Revolutionary War myth. In doing so, I fear that I launched another myth.

In this posting, I wrote: “Dutch elm disease probably brought down the 1932 replacement elm, so since the 1980s a hardy dogwood has stood in.”

But Cambridge historian Charles Bahne gently told me that the tree on the city common sure looked like an elm to him. My horticultural knowledge is so small I don’t claim to know one deciduous tree from another. I got the dogwood idea from this photograph of a plaque found while searching for online photos marked “Washington Elm.”

In doing so, I missed the fact (unmistakable in Flickr’s new layout) that that plaque describes a “Washington Elm” which stood in New Jersey; it was a descendant and namesake of the one in Cambridge. So the “Washington dogwood” is also, necessarily, in New Jersey.

I’ve now corrected my “The Washington Dogwood?” posting—thanks, Charlie! I even got out to Cambridge common myself this month, and confirmed that the tree near the city’s historic “Washington Elm” monuments is…deciduous.

(Photo above by Wally Gobetz, available through Flickr via a Creative Commons license.)

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