OU to remove historic Pe-et Elm stump after continued decay

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Pe-et Elm Stump

The Pe-et Elm stump in front of Evans Hall Oct. 24.

OU will remove the stump of a storied elm tree from the North Oval this week before it decays completely.

After 13 years of continued decay, OU will remove the Pe-et Elm stump from its place in front of Evans Hall, said Kesha Keith, director of media relations.

Keith said in an email Oct. 24 that the removal would take place at 6 p.m., depending on the weather. As of 6:15 p.m. Oct. 24, rain was falling and the stump had not yet been removed.

The stump will now be removed Nov. 1, according to an email from Keith.

According to an email The Daily obtained that was sent by Kristin Partridge, associate vice president for student affairs, the stump has continued to rot since the century-old tree was cut down in 2006 due to disease and old age, and recently large pieces of the stump have fallen off and posed a danger to passersby. 

Partridge, who according to the email graduated as a member of the Pe-et honors society and serves as the group’s adviser, sent the email to Pe-et alumni. According to the email, Partridge and current society members met with administration in May to discuss preservation of the stump.

According to a Sooner Magazine article from 2006, the Pe-et Elm was planted more than 100 years ago by OU’s first president, David Ross Boyd. The tree served as the site of the Pe-Et honor society initiation since 1910, and was officially named the Pe-et Elm by the university in 1936.

While there are no set plans to memorialize the tree’s legacy yet, Partridge and Keith said that OU will continue to have conversations with the Pe-et honor society to determine the best way to move forward.

“Recently, the university had a 3D scan of the stump performed before the stump decomposes entirely,” Keith said in the email. “This will give additional options and time for a decision to be made on the best way to keep the tree as part of OU’s history.”

Others have taken steps to preserve the Pe-et Elm in the time since the tree was cut down. Economics professor Alexander Holmes has made two grandfather clocks and numerous bowls out of the tree’s wood since 2006.

Holmes said part of the reason for the Pe-et Elm’s significance is its lengthy life. Holmes said people historically planted elm trees along streets in towns across the United States because of the shade they provide — but most were eventually wiped out by Dutch elm disease.

“(The) Pe-et Elm is one of the survivors of it,” said Holmes. “The elm trees around Norman are all gone.”

This story was updated at 9:54 a.m. Oct. 30 to include new information about the stump's removal after it was not removed at the originally scheduled time due to weather.

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