Chaining myself to the tree will probably not save it.
June 22, 2012 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I have a huge elm tree in my backyard that has most likely been there since my house was built in 1925, if not before. Yesterday the city forestry guy came by and said that the tree *might* be showing the early signs of dutch elm disease. Is there anything proactive I can do to save the tree?

There is a picture of the tree in question here, next to my garage. It is huge, 39 inches around the trunk and is one of the taller trees on my block (I'm bad at estimating height). From the banding on the trunk there have been steps taken in the past to prevent dutch elm disease some years ago.

Yesterday one of the city forestry guys stopped by my house to take some samples, as they are concerned with a few of the other elms on my block. He cut down about five small branches, and all but one were healthy and seemed fine. One however, had wilted leaves and beneath the bark had some slightly darker lines that *might* be DED. The forestry guy was going to take it back to his supervisor for a second opinion. He said for now they are going to monitor and take samples every week, but if it does have the disease, it's going to have to be cut down.

Is there anything I can do to prevent or halt the progression of DED? I've heard of therapeutic tree injections, but I found a link to the NDSU extension page that states:
"Most DED infections in North Dakota arise from inoculations by the native elm bark beetle. For that reason, most DED infected trees will already show more than 5 percent crown involvement by the time first symptoms become evident. At that time, in many such trees, the fungus will have already invaded the main branches or trunk – as evidenced by streaking in the wood. For these reasons therapeutic treatment will be expected to fail in many cases and cannot be recommended in North Dakota. "
However, this info is dated from 1996, so I was wondering if there was any new techniques that may help save the tree?

I'm surprising myself at how upset I'm getting about this, I mean it's a *tree* for christsakes. But I thought researching something proactive to do to maybe save the tree will help reduce my constant fretting about it.
posted by weathergal to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That band on the tree looks more like a treatment used to control gypsy moth caterpillars (sorry I can't help with DED).
posted by plinth at 1:07 PM on June 22, 2012

I know the University of Guelph has been working on on this problem. Maybe contact them?
posted by saucysault at 1:10 PM on June 22, 2012

Best answer: Arbotect, a fungicide, has been shown to be effective in keeping healthy elm's free of Dutch Elm Disease. If the city determines your tree will not need to be cut down, contact a registered arborist about prophylactic treatment for your tree. If the location in your profile is accurate, the nearest master arborist is Sam Kezar of Aspen Arboriculture Solutions. If he isn't near you and can't recommend a local arborist, you can use the International Society of Arboriculture's online "Find a Tree Care Service" tool to find an arborist.
posted by RichardP at 1:52 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This:
"Eradicating Dutch elm disease from newly infected trees. If a new crown infection of DED is detected early enough, there is opportunity to save a tree through pruning, fungicide injection, or both. Eradicative treatment is not possible on trees that have become infected via root graft transmission. Pruning, which can literally eradicate the fungus from the tree by removing it, has a high probability of "saving" a newly infected tree that has less than 5% of its crown affected. To be a candidate for eradicative pruning, the infection must be a new infection (not a residual infection from the previous season) and be present only in the upper crown (not yet present in the main stem). Since infection may be more advanced than symptoms indicate, it is important to peel off the bark of infected branches and locate the staining, which indicates the presence of the fungus. All infected branches should be removed at a branch fork at least 5 feet, and preferably 10 feet, below the last sign of streaking in the sapwood (figure 8). Whenever elm branches are pruned during the growing season, pruning paint specifically formulated for use on trees should be applied to prevent attraction of elm bark beetles to the wounded trees. (Painting tree wounds is generally not recommended, except to prevent disease transmission in oaks and elms.)

Pruning is more likely to be effective if augmented by systemic injection of fungicides. Proper use of fungicides eliminates the need to eradicate all infected tissues from the tree, although all dead branches should eventually be removed. Whereas pruning alone is not effective against residual infections, fungicide injection may be. If fungicides are used, they should be injected prior to removal of diseased branches. The keys to successful eradicative treatment are early detection and prompt treatment."

Dept. of Agriculture website.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:33 PM on June 22, 2012

That is not just a gorgeous tree, it's an American elm! They can live for hundreds of years. You should definitely do what you can to save it.

My ex-inlaws had two elms of that size (still do, actually) that they saved from DED when it came through here (Denver) in the 60s. All their neighbors just let their beautiful old elms be cut down, but they pulled out all the stops and the trees were saved by an arborist. It can be done.

And needless to say, those elms add a lot of charm, character, value and shade to their property. They could barely afford it at the time but they said it was worth it.
posted by caryatid at 5:10 PM on June 22, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks guys, you gave me hope! The Aspen Arboriculture folks are just 20 miles away in Crookston, MN, so it's possible they can come over to the ND side and check out the tree. I'll be giving them a call on Monday.

Thanks again!
posted by weathergal at 1:21 PM on June 23, 2012

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