Utah County working to protect one-of-a-kind tree

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PROVO -- Of all the trees in Utah, there is one in Provo researchers believe is the only one of its kind in the country -- maybe on the entire planet. It's a type of elm tree, which isn't that unique, but this one is called a tabletop elm.

You could walk by the tree a hundred times and not think anything about it. Go underneath its leaves, though, and that's when you realize it's different.

Utah State University horticulturist Julia Tuck hears it all the time.

"A lot of times people will come in the office and say, 'What kind of tree is that?'" she says.

Tuck works at USU's Utah County extension office, which is right next door the tree.

Officially, it's an Ulmus Americana -- an elm tree -- but this one is called a tabletop elm tree. It's extremely rare because it grows sideways.

‘They're supposed to grow vertically. Someone forgot to tell this one," Tuck says.

Researchers don't know why this tree all of a sudden decided to grow horizontally, but they've never been able to replicate it, and have never found another one like it.

"It's the only one like it, as far as I know, in the world," Tuck says.

Because of that, Utah County wants to protect the tree. It's been made a historical tree, with signs saying to not climb on it, and even braces so it won't collapse on itself.

"It's better to have the scaffolding," Tuck says. "I'd hate to find out that it couldn't support itself because there wasn't the scaffolding."

In the summertime, because of all the shade, Tuck says the tree is one of the most popular places to eat lunch outside.

"People are always here during lunch. It's even pretty in the winter when the leaves fall off," she says.

The tree was planted in 1927, when two county workers were sent to Ogden to buy trees and plants for the new county building. The nursery gave them the elm tree as a gift, but there's a good chance nobody knew how rare and special it would be become.

The tree is located near 100 East and Center Street in Provo. Come fall, it takes will take seven dump trucks just to get rid of all the leaves that fall from it.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com


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