Safeguarding elm trees from Dutch elm disease

Lisa Goudy
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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.

Elm tree pruning ban takes effect April 1

Not all elm bark beetles carry Dutch elm disease, but some of them do.

Because they’re most active from April 1 to Aug. 31, pruning elm trees during that period is prohibited in Saskatchewan.

“Elm bark beetles are attracted to the smell of fresh cut elm wood,” said Daily Lennox, parks gardener with the City of Moose Jaw. “If they are carrying the Dutch elm disease (DED) virus, then your tree gets infected and your tree dies.”

In 2013, there were 15 positive cases of DED in Moose Jaw, which she said is “really high.” Five or six of those cases were a section of trees in a remote area of Wakamow Valley with dying elm trees.

“So we took all the elm out,” said Lennox. “Hopefully we’ve cleared up that whole problem down there. It even spread through town last year. We had some of the east side of town. We had some on the west side of town. So it was kind of hit and miss.  It was kind of a little bit everywhere.”

In 2012, there were six cases in the city and there was only one case in 2011.

“We’re asking more and more for people to watch for the signs of Dutch elm disease and to call me and I’ll gladly come out,” said Lennox. “We’re getting better at watching for it and hopefully catching it.”

Symptoms for DED usually start showing up at the end of June when the trees are in full leaf. Starting at the top of the tree, the leaves will start flagging or looking wilted on a few branches. The leaves then turn brown, but the don’t fall off.

“It slowly moves down the tree,” said Lennox. “At that point if somebody thinks they might have it, give me a call. I’ll come out. If I think that these look like positive signs, I’ll take a sample we’ll send it and it’ll get tested.”

Test results usually take about two weeks. If the results come back positive, the city will remove the tree and if it comes back negative, the city will keep an eye on the tree.

She said trees can still be removed during that time, but there are specific rules on how to do that. Individuals doing so require an Elmwood disposal permit that the city will give for free. People can dispose of the tree at the landfill without paying the landfill fee. The wood is required to go to the landfill.

That said, if there is a bad storm in the summer that results in tree branches hanging onto the street or on a car, pruning is allowed.

“We don’t expect you to leave it there until September. There’s cases where we have to cut the branches off because it’s a danger,” said Lennox. “We still can’t be unsafe.”

To remove a tree, or to obtain any additional information, contact the parks and recreation department at 306-694-4447 or contact or Lennox directly at 306-693-4439.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Wakamow Valley

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