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Photo Gallery: Elm's Return Highlights Burbank Arbor Day

Once thought lost, American elm now back; elementary school now has one.

With 10,000 mature varieties on public land and an equal number on private property, no one can say Belmont doesn't have a shortage of trees.

In fact, Belmont has the distinction of being named a Tree City U.S.A for the past 26 years (which, with Reading, is the longest consecutive run in Massachusetts) and has a large number of distinguished trees throughout town.

But last week, Town Tree Warden Thomas Walsh with the help from the Department of Public Works and fourth graders from , planted a tree in the front lawn of the school that hasn't been seen around town since it was given up for dead half a century ago.

"This is your tree," Walsh told the 50 or so students as they planted an American elm near Burbank's School Street entrance.

American elms were once prominent in most New England towns, known for its size – growing to more than 100 feet high with trunks measuring four feet around – which made them perfect trees to provide shade for pack animals and people.

But Dutch elm disease killed nearly the entire species in the early part of the past century.

Today, a cross-bred variety – known as the 'Valley Forge' – of the few surviving trees with natural resistance to the blight marks the return of the tree, said Walsh. So by the time the students graduate in eight years, "you will have a beautiful tree to hang out under," said Walsh.

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