Know Your Tree History: Dutch Elm Disease

If you’re interested in tree care in Atlanta and Decatur, then you may benefit from knowing a bit about Dutch Elm disease. Continue reading to learn about this tree condition and how it has affected the history of forestry.

A Look at Dutch Elm Disease

Most tree service experts would agree that when Dutch elm disease (DED) was introduced to North America and Europe, that this prompted one of the most significant incidents in urban forestry’s history. Part of this is because DED has affected the way in which people think about and handle invasive tree pests.

Dutch Elm Disease in Europe

DED affected European trees long before it ever made it to North America. In 1917, Dutch scientists identified the disease when it made an appearance in Holland. From here, the disease spread quickly and started wiping out many European elms. In 1921, a scientist from the Netherlands isolated a fungus from the dying elms and later it was found that this fungus had originated in Asia, where local elms had developed a resistance to the disease over the course of millions of years. European elms, however, had no defense against the pathogen.

Dutch Elm Disease in North America

In 1931, a furniture company in Cleveland, Ohio unknowingly brought logs in from France that had been infected with DED. Also having no resistance to the disease, elms in North America quickly began to fall victim to the fungus. Over the next decades, DED spread throughout the United States and, in 1977, just the City of Minneapolis had more than 31,000 publicly owned infected trees, with many of these requiring tree removal.

Treating and Preventing Dutch Elm Disease

Canada was also affected by DED and eventually developed a breakthrough in protecting elms from the disease and saving those that were already affected. This occurred when the focus shifted from stopping the beetles that were spreading the disease to halting the fungus itself. By injecting a fungicide into a tree’s vascular system, the fungus spores introduced by the beetles were unable to germinate, allowing tree arborists to protect and save elms.