||The flowering crab apple trees that ring
the National Library of Medicine are capable of supporting "blossom" in
both spring and winter, but must soon be replaced.
If you've walked around the southeast corner of the campus in
springtime, you've seen them. They look like vast umbrellas covered
with pink snowballs but they're actually Arnold flowering crab
apple trees, or Malus arnoldiana. These broad, graceful plants
bracket the two NLM buildings, 38 and 38A, and are as much an NLM
trademark as the funky geometric roof. Sadly, they're not in good
health and will soon have to be replaced.
"The flowering crab apples are about 50 years old and that's about
10 years past their prime," explained Lynn Mueller, head of grounds
maintenance at the NIH Office of Research Facilities. "You can
see that just about each tree is now suffering from heartwood decay,
root rot and branch dieback. Some are leaning over as a result
of root failure. Like all living things, these beautiful trees
have a natural life span and they've come to the end of it. Unfortunately,
it's time to do something about that. It will be a tragedy removing
them as they have become an NIH landmark."
The trees are an old variety not commonly grown by nurseries anymore.
Over the past 40 years, however, many hardier varieties have been
developed. Mueller has been scouting replacement plants at area
nurseries and hopes to begin removing the current trees and planting
replacements between now and late March.
"To be honest, it will take about 10 years to regain that distinctive
umbrella form," Mueller pointed out. "But, in the meantime, the
small trees will bloom and grow, and we'll immediately begin to
prune them into that umbrella shape. We'll treat the outgoing and
incoming trees with tender loving care and will do most of the
work on weekends, so that we don't disturb pedestrian or vehicle