Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

American Elm Survivor Tree

with 16 comments

We drove up to Oklahoma City on April 19th and learned after we arrived that the date marked the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist bombing there. That afternoon we walked the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and saw the decorations that had been placed on all the chairs in the Field of Empty Chairs. The next day we visited the indoor museum, and after emerging I photographed an American elm, Ulmus americana, that has come to be known as the Survivor Tree. Heavily damaged, the elm managed to stay alive; it even bloomed the next year and has done so every year since then. You can hear/read more in an NPR interview.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2017 at 4:53 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

16 Responses

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  1. there’s hope for the tree~I came across one at Grant Woods last summer. as for humans…


    May 14, 2017 at 6:43 AM

  2. We visited that site a few years ago. It was a well done and very moving experience.

    Jim R

    May 14, 2017 at 9:20 PM

    • Agreed. I was impressed with how well and how quickly the investigators pieced together what had happened, following evidence to various places around the country. I was also surprised to find the getaway car inside the museum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2017 at 9:53 PM

  3. I’ve heard of the tree, of course, but i don’t remember seeing a photo of it. I’ve often seen the chairs, and sometimes a photo of the museum, but not the tree.

    The view up through the leaves is beautiful. Whether this is the species of elm we had in our front yard, I can’t say. But the light coming through the leaves certainly is familiar, and the close view of leaves that I found is similar. It’s always inspiring to see such survival and regrowth.


    May 14, 2017 at 9:32 PM

    • If I’d heard of the tree, I didn’t remember it, so everything about it, including the experience of standing under its branches, was new to me.

      As much as I didn’t care to shoot up into the white sky, at least the light passing through differing numbers of leaves and leaves at differing angles created pleasantly varying shades of green, especially in the upper left portion of this photograph. In a few other pictures I aimed up into the branches, so the multiple shades of green were more prominent. Those photographs, however, didn’t include the trunk, so I went with this picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2017 at 10:01 PM

  4. Nice, I just *knew* that species wasn’t really extinct. Is there another…somewhere? It takes two.

    Robert Cox

    May 15, 2017 at 12:26 PM

    • While many American elms have succumbed to Dutch elm beetles, this tree species isn’t close to extinction. The particular American elm shown here in Oklahoma City might have succumbed to a proposed cutting-down to retrieve criminal evidence, but people eventually realized that was a bad idea and let the tree stand as a memorial.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2017 at 1:11 PM

  5. What a gorgeous way to photograph that tree! Beautiful contrast between bark and leaf, and the colors, the diagonal – love it.


    May 21, 2017 at 12:09 PM

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