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What Is Dutch Elm Disease

Dutch Elm Disease is a serious fungal infection affecting elm trees, primarily spread by elm bark beetles and through root connections between trees. The disease blocks the transport of water and nutrients within the tree, leading to leaf wilting, yellowing, and eventually, the tree’s death. 

How It Effects Edmontonians

When dutch elm disease (DED) first arrived in North America in the 1930’s, is decimated over 100 million elm trees across the continent. Nearly the entire stand of legacy boulevard trees and natural groves. This lead to stringent regulations being put in place to curtail the effects and prevent future outbreaks. Edmonton currently has one of the largest elm populations in the world considered to be DED free.

These regulations include laws dictating when you can prune and elm and how to handle the elm tree material.

Since the disease (fungus) is commonly spread by an elm bark beetle, which is attracted to the smell of freshly cut elm wood, elm pruning season is set to the seasons when the beetle isn’t active (October through March). Once the wood is cut, it is then taken to a facility where it can be disposed of correctly, since storing the logs for firewood would create an ideal breeding area for the beetles. 

Why Elms Are Important

Legislated pruning seasons, meticulous material handling, and dedicated urban forestry staff… Is it all worth it for elm trees? Absolutely.

Imagine if we could leapfrog evolution and design the ideal boulevard tree. Even then, our engineered marvel would likely fall short of the natural splendor of the elm. Among the urban forest, few trees match the elm’s resilience to the harsh conditions they face, let alone flourish for centuries under such stress. Moreover, elm trees stand out for their strong, dependable wood and consistent growth pattern, casting a seamless canopy over our streets that combines beauty with safety, rarely causing damage with falling or intrusive branches. The value that elms bring to our urban landscapes is immeasurable, making them irreplaceable pillars of our cities.

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