A casual stroll through the Yard may have brought a doleful sight to your environmentally-conscious eyes. The American elm tree that once stood staidly in the patch of grass behind Weld and University Hall has been reduced to a sad ol' stump.

Nazneen P. Cooper, assistant dean for campus design, said that the elm in the Yard had been infected with Dutch Elm disease, a re-occurring problem with old elms.

Dutch Elm disease first plagued Harvard's trees in 1978, according to Wayne P. Carbone, manager of landscape services. The disease, which affects the vascular system of the tree, is spread by elm bark beetles and root grafting. It has been a problem in the Yard and the rest of the campus courtyards because too many trees were planted too close together over 100 years ago.

Indeed, the recent leafy victim of the diease is not the first tree to have gone in its vicinity. Two other elms in that area were cut in the past three years.

To prevent further spreading of the disease, recent landscape efforts have introduced a variety of new tree species to Harvard's green pastures.

"It is our responsibility to make sure that the trees on our campus are and remain healthy," Cooper said. "If there is a particular tree infected with an incurable disease, then we have keep it alive as long as feasible until we have to cut it down to sterilize the area and make sure the disease doesn't spread to surrounding healthy trees."

So have no fear! The University has plans of replacing this particular elm as well as a few others over the next year. For now, enjoy the bit of extra light as you pass through the Yard.