Disease-Resistant Elms Spread Across U.S.

By David Bare
Salem, NC (November 17,2007)- Although the American elm seemed destined for memory due to Dutch elm disease, the ‘Princeton’ tree, and others like it, may be changing that. Researchers have confirmed its resistance to the disease and have begun cultivating more resistant elms from ‘Princeton.’ These new elms are gaining in popularity and are now available at select Home Depot stores.

In 1930 Dutch elm disease made its appearance in America, devastating thousands of neighborhoods by robbing them of their mature elm canopies. Tiny elm-bark beetles tunneled and laid their eggs in weak trees affected by the disease. As the young hatched, they traveled through the spore-infested chambers on their way out of the bark of the diseased tree. They then sought healthy trees in which to feed, thereby spreading the disease.
There are a few specimen trees that have shown natural resistance to the disease. These trees are being propagated in an effort to reestablish the American elm as a viable street tree. One of the oldest cultivars is Ulmus americana ‘Princeton.’ Genetic sampling has determined that the ‘Princeton’ elm derived from one stately tree that has been growing in a cemetery in Princeton, N.J., for 300 years. Princeton nurseries propagated and selected from trees derived from the cemetery tree in the 1920s, before the disease was a threat.
Rodger Holloway has taken on the ‘Princeton’ elm as a personal mission, propagating and selling the tree through his nursery Riveredge Farms, outside Atlanta. Subjected to massive injections of the fungus that causes the disease in tests at the National Arboretum, the Princeton elm has proved its resistance. No elm is immune to the disease and a few other cultivars have good resistance, but none of these have the combination of good form, disease resistance and the long track record of the ‘Princeton’ cultivar.
Since Holloway began his efforts in 1997, the elm has hit the mainstream; this year it became available at select Home Depot stores. Eighty-eight Princeton elms were planted along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in 2005. Holloway told me that interest is “really growing for this tree adapted to an extremely wide habitat from Minnesota to Florida and northern Texas.”
For the full article, visit the Winston-Salem Journal.
Related Resources:
Elm Watch
My Elm Story
Elms Stage a Comeback in Wyoming