This year already as bad as last year's Dutch elm disease totals
© Austin M. Davis
An elm tree with Dutch Elm Disease (left) stands next to a healthy-looking tree in Wakamow Valley at the end of Fourth Avenue South.
Dutch elm disease has claimed six trees in Moose Jaw and yours could be next.
“There’s probably going to be more,” said Daily Lennox, City of Moose Jaw Parks Gardener. “I can’t say for sure until the tests come back. These are big, mature trees that are no longer there.”
One diseased tree was located on the 800 block of Ominica Street East and the other was located on the 1000 block of 11th Avenue Northwest. The other infected trees were in Wakamow Valley.
Lennox said a man living in the city with a corner lot property went from having three large elms on his yard to having zero, within a year.
The already six diseased trees this year ties last year’s total.
“You almost have to try and picture the avenues with no trees because that can happen,” Lennox said.
Lennox is part of the Dutch elm disease surveillance program. She surveys as many of the streets and back alleys as she can, looking at all the elm trees. She also makes sure that elm firewood and dead or dying elms are properly disposed.
“Once the tree has the virus, it is carried by elm bark beetles,” Lennox said. “Chances are it’s being transferred by elm bark beetles. That’s the main way that this virus travels.”
She said there have been a few cases of trees that tested negative next to trees that tested positive last year. Now, this year the other trees have tested positive for the virus.
“That could be spread by the roots of the trees or also by the elm bark beetle. It’s hard to say,” Lennox said.
She said that the symptoms of Dutch elm disease are visible at the crown (or the top) of the tree.
“At this time of year, it’s already gone past the wilting stage, so they’re going to be seeing leaves that are yellow turning brown and the leaves stay on the tree,” Lennox said.
The drying and curling of the leaves of affected branches is called flagging.
Lennox said that even with visible symptoms of the disease, she still needs public help.
“But there’s some areas in town, because there are so many trees, I’m going to miss some,” Lennox said. “In an area like Wakamow where there’s almost like little forests, if people are walking through there, just take a look up and see if you see something. The more eyes we have out there looking, the better.”
Lennox said that homeowners can reduce the chances of their trees getting Dutch elm disease, but not between April and August.
“The elm bark beetle is attracted to dead or dying elm. So, if you have an elm tree and there’s a lot of dead branches on it, pruning it would help, you just can’t prune it at this time of year. You have to wait until September,” Lennox said.
The smell of pruning cuts attracts elm bark beetles and at this time, it would only heighten the tree’s chances of getting the disease.
Lennox encouraged the public to call 306 694-4439 to report any sightings of, or concerns about, Dutch elm disease.
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306-691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theAustinX