Lone Scotland Tree Survived Deadly "Elm Disease" | The Institute for Creation Research

Lone Scotland Tree Survived Deadly "Elm Disease"
One lone elm tree survived a deadly “elm disease.”

Nicknamed “Ent Tree” (alluding to arboreal heroes in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), this elm won Scotland’s “Tree of the Year” status in 2019.1,2 It was planted in 1919 as a memorial to WWI soldiers.1 However, it failed to place within 2020’s Top 10 of Europe’s “Tree of the Year” competition.3

Although the Environmental Partnership Association deemed other trees as “better” than the Highlands’ Ent Tree, the Scots do well to be proud of their Tolkienesque tree and to appreciate it as the resilient and odd trunk-faced elm that it is.1,2

But, can you be a “winner” without a competition? Actually, sometimes simply surviving is winning enough! This can be true for both trees and businesses.

For an elm tree, it is a victory to outlive the deadly Dutch elm disease—an arboreal epidemic repeatedly ravaging many elms in Scotland.4,5

In particular, the Dutch elm disease is caused by (often fatal) infections of certain sac fungi transmitted to European elm trees by the European elm bark beetle and the large elm bark beetle. Both beetles destroy elm trees comparable to that of America’s elm bark beetle.5

Specifically, fungally infected beetles in one tree can easily spread them to nearby elm trees.4,5

In fact, some are accrediting the Ent Tree with surviving the Dutch elm disease due to its successful isolation, far from other elm trees that were plagued by that contagious pestilence. This may explain why it was a notable survivor of that arboreal epidemic.4,5

Trees, wherever they are, show off God’s glory as Creator, by their magnificent hidden-in-plain-view traits.4,6

J. R. R. Tolkien is famous for fictional adventure stories, such as Lord of the Rings, where animated trees called ents go to war against the bad guys. Imagining how trees can participate in epic conflicts does require stretching your imagination.

However, in the real world of today, our planet is “groaning,” waiting for the redemptive restoration that only the Lord Jesus Christ can provide.7 The prophet Isaiah predicted a glorious future age when the Lord shall bless and transform even the nature of nature. Even predatory beasts will be benign8—and even the trees will (somehow) doxologically “clap their hands.”

“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the LORD for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”9

No attempt is made here to interpret that astounding prophecy—except to say that whatever that means must be astonishing to behold! As believers on Earth, we enjoy belonging to God, being forgiven, and many other blessings—and (for believers in Christ) it only gets better in the hereafter!

Stage image: The Last "Ent" of Affric.
Stage image credit: Niall Benvie/WTML
. Copyright © 2020. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

References
1. Staff writer. 2019. 'Lord of the Rings' Elm is Scotland's Tree of the Year. BBC News. Posted on bbc.com October 23, 2019, accessed May 19, 2020.
2. MacLennan, C. 2019. Glen Affric Tree Reminiscent of Creature from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Wins Scotland’s Tree of the Year. The Press and Journal. Posted on pressandjournal.co.uk October 23, 2019, accessed May 18, 2020.
3. The Environmental Partnership Association, based in Belgium, conducts the “European Tree of the Year” competition. For top 3 winners, see TreeoftheYear.org, accessed May 18, 2020.
4. Chris MacLennan observes: “Ents, which are mythological tree creatures from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, were said to serve as guardians of the forest, with the lone elm of Glen Affric protected from Dutch elm disease due to its remote location” (MacLennan, C. Glen Affric Tree). See also MacLennan, C. 2019. Scotland’s Tree of the Year Hailed as ‘Symbolic Leader’ Against Rise of Notorious Tree Disease in Highlands. The Press and Journal. Posted on pressandjournal.co.uk November 14, 2019, accessed May 19, 2020.
5. The U.K.’s Forestry Commission reported how Dutch elm disease has repeatedly plagued Scottish regions of Britain during the past century: “Until 1975, Dutch elm disease was confined in Scotland to the Lothian and Border regions and involved only the non-aggressive strain of the causal fungus Ceratocystis ulmi. During 1975 and 1976, outbreaks of the aggressive strain were discovered in the Strathclyde, Tayside, Central and Fife regions. Although it appeared that Scolytus beetles, the vectors of C. ulmi, had not been found in Scotland before the 1938 elm disease outbreak in the Borders, where they were abundant, evidence on the incidence of the non-aggressive strain indicates that the disease, and by implication the vector was present in more northerly regions by the early 1970's, when it is thought that the aggressive strain was introduced in infected logs from England. Populations of S. scolytus (F.) are now apparently high throughout the extended disease area” (Redfern, D. B. 1977. Scottish Forestry. 31(2): 105-109). Dutch Elm Disease is a type of “vascular wilt” fungal infection. See Boddy, L. 2016. “Pathogens in Autotrophs,” Chapter 8 in The Fungi, 3rd edition. S. C. Watkinson, L. Boddy, and N. P. Money, eds. London, UK: Academic Press, 245-292.
6. Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Arbor Day: Planting Trees in April. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org April 24, 2020, accessed May 19, 2020.
7. Romans 8:19-22.
8. Isaiah 11:4-10, especially 11:6-9.
9. Isaiah 55:12-13.

*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
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