Truckee Meadows' Stressed Out Elms Respond With Tons Of Seed

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Reno isn't known as the "City of Trembling Leaves" for nothing.

For a community in the high desert we leaf out pretty good every spring and a good portion of the green you see out there are elm trees.

The annual elm seed fall is one reason why.

Every spring the little paper-like seeds waft away in the slightest breeze and gather on the ground, but usually not in this number.

"We were sweeping the front porch and sweeping the back porch," says Reno resident Debby Allee, "and yesterday we actually thought of shoveling the back porch."

She's not alone. All over the city you'll see the seeds piling up in the gutter, covering sidewalks, streets and cars, getting tracked into homes.

As you might have guessed there's a natural reason.

"This is a response to stress," says Dale Carlon of the Truckee Meadows Community Forestry Coalition.

Local elms along with trees of any sort have good reason to be stressed. The past two winters have been dry and the most recent was also relatively warm, lacking the cold that triggers trees to harden, shut down.

It's enough to stress the hardiest tree.

And when trees are stressed they respond by trying to make little trees. Hence the heavy seed drop this year.

It's a chore to clean up, but the real nuisance is just around the corner.

"What will happen in this yard in the next couple of weeks," says Carlon gesturing toward Allee's home in Reno's Old Southwest, "she'll start getting little elm trees sprouting up all over the place."

But rather than curse the elms, which, of course, aren't going away in any case, Carlon says we might accept some of the blame ourselves.

Like a lot of things in Nevada it all comes down to water. A lot of us make the mistake of not watering our trees during the winter.

"Don't think just because it's a big, mature tree that it has access to the water table. It doesn't we need to supplement the water and it could be as easy as running a drip line or a soaker hose."

And now we're paying the price, in sheer tonnage of seeds and in a few weeks a new crop of little volunteer elms in our flower beds.

The lesson: take care of our elm trees and we'll both be a little less stressed.