Protecting & Caring for the American Elm

The American elm was the biggest and longest lived tree on our northern floodplains until Dutch-elm disease (DED) wiped out much of their population. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is facing this problem head on, planting elms that are potentially Dutch-elm disease tolerant along Connecticut and Champlain Valley basins. We have partnered with US Forest Service and have dedicated a test site with 6,420 American elms to be inoculated with Dutch-elm disease in hopes of understanding which of these trees are immune to the disease and why.

As spring began, TNC staff members and myself went to visit the test site in order to prune and prepare the elms. Before inoculation, the trees must be at least one inch in diameter (DBH) and growing from a singular trunk. Together, we learned proper technique and what to look for. We each took a row and began to prune, asking each other to help problem solve and identify what to cut and when to stop. At the end of the day, as we walked back through the rows we had pruned, I was struck by the importance of what we were doing. Each tree we pruned has the potential to be DED tolerant, and become a seed source that helps bring elms back to our floodplain forests. This is a project that has been happening for many years with many people dedicated and committed to the quest of restoring this beloved tree. While I was only a small part in a singular day, I left with a sense of hope.