Renowned for providing beautiful leafy foliage and dominating suburban America, elms are without doubt one of the nation’s favorite and most iconic trees. Yet recent years have seen a rapid decline in the Elm population, owing to the spread of the seemingly untreatable Dutch Elm Disease which causes trees to choke themselves to death.
Dutch Elm Disease is spread by various species of bark beetles, which carry the disease from one tree to another and cause fungus to grow at the base of the trunk. As a self-defense mechanism, the tree shuts itself down which inadvertently causes it to be starved of water and nutrients. Dutch elm disease has been a growing problem for a while, with hundreds of trees falling victim to the disease every day.
In an attempt to save the great American elm, The University of Minnesota has been running tests on a range of elm trees to determine whether any variety is immune to the destructive effects of Dutch Elm Disease. Researchers discovered a large tree in the St Croix River Valley that had withstood the disease, suggesting it had resistant properties. Years of testing have proven the tree to be unaffected by the disease, a discovery that represents more than a glimmer of hope for the future of the elm tree.
The tree first came to the attention of researchers after owner Chris Bliska noticed it on his hobby farm in Afton, MN. Bliska, who was looking to develop an orchard on his land, was intrigued by the tree’s good health when all other elms on the site were infected with Dutch Elm Disease. The tree in question was not only healthy, but also very large – its trunk measured 75 inches in diameter – so Bliska contacted an arborist to assess it.
The arborist realized that Bliska’s tree boasted unique properties that rendered it unaffected by Dutch Elm Disease. He promptly contacted the University of Minnesota to inform them of his suspected findings.
Researchers proceeded to clone seedlings of the elm upon which they conducted a series of tests and experiments. This involved deliberately infusing the saplings with a strain of Dutch Elm fungus to test their durability and resistance. Whilst several of the young trees fell victim to the disease, many more showed no long-term negative side-effects and grew in the fashion that would be expected of a young elm. Researchers declared the experiments a success, and the disease-resistant elm has been officially called the St Croix Elm in homage to its place of discovery.
The fact that the St Croix Elm is resistant to Dutch Elm Disease is making it a popular choice for Twin Cities residents. Other varieties of Elm have shown resistance to Dutch Elm Disease, including the Princeton Elm, but University of Minnesota researchers claim that the St Croix Elm is perfectly suited to Minnesota growing conditions and is proving to be a firm favorite with locals.
Home owners can expect the St Croix Elm to grow at a fast rate and to provide a large amount of shade, rendering them a perfect addition to the back-yard for hot summer days.
If you're fighting Dutch Elm Disease in one of your trees, give us a shout. Our tree removal team will take it down and grind out it's stump so you can replace it with the heartier St. Croix Elm.