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Individual Highlight

Forest Service scientists develop a cold-hardy American elm tree

Photo of NRS-2017-62????NRS-2017-62????Snapshot : Dutch elm disease largely eradicated mature elm trees from the eastern U.S. in the 1900s. Forest Service scientists are working to create site-adapted Dutch elm disease tolerant elm trees capable of tolerating the cold winters of the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Flower, Charles E. Pinchot, Leila
Fox, TimothySlavicek, Jim
Research Location : Chippewa National Forest, northern Minnesota
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1254


Prior to the outbreak of Dutch elm disease (DED), the American elm tree was widely dispersed across the eastern U.S., thriving in a variety of different forest habitats. Over the last several decades, considerable progress has been made in cultivating new genotypes of American elm trees that are tolerant to DED. Yet, many of these varieties lack cold hardiness, limiting their use in forests along the species’ northern range. In collaboration with the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota, Forest Service scientists crossed known DED-tolerant varieties with locally adapted American elm trees from the Chippewa National Forest, yielding more than 1,300 progeny. In June 2017, nearly a decade after they were planted, these trees were inoculated with DED to assess tolerance levels. Eight weeks following inoculations, trees were assessed for DED canopy decline. Although early in the disease progression, several varieties are exhibiting tolerance (less than 20 percent DED symptoms) to the disease. Under-performing trees will be removed from the research plantations and tolerant varieties will remain as a seed source for restoration endeavors. These efforts are particularly timely as American elm is well suited for use in black ash wetlands and other local forest types threatened by the invasive emerald ash borer.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Chippewa National Forest

Program Areas