Identification of Dutch elm disease tolerant American elm selections

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Charles E. Flower, Cornelia C. Pinchot, Kathleen S. Knight, James M. Slavicek, Dale Lesser

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Before the arrival of Dutch elm disease (DED; caused by Ophiostoma ulmi and O. novo-ulmi), American elm (Ulmus americana) was a dominant tree species with an expansive range extending from Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to Alberta and Texas. The tree provided critical habitat to lepidopterans and represented an important source of food for avian and granivore species. American elms have been widely planted in cities and towns across North America, owing to their graceful form and tolerance of harsh conditions. The arrival and spread of DED resulted in widespread decline of elms across urban and rural landscapes. Restoration of American elm necessitates the development of genetically diverse disease tolerant populations that can be used as seed sources for reintroduction plantings. Ongoing research and breeding efforts lead by the USDA Forest Service Delaware Forestry Science Laboratory (Delaware, OH, USA) have focused on testing the DED tolerance of large survivor American elms from midwestern and New England states. To evaluate the DED tolerance of survivor elms, clones of each selection are planted with tolerant and susceptible controls in plantations and inoculated with a mixture of O. ulmi and O. novo-ulmi spores at age 7-10. Canopy decline is evaluated over time. Recent tests have revealed several selections with DED tolerance levels that meet or exceed commercially available cultivars of American elm. Testing of these selections in urban and rural restoration plantings is underway to evaluate their survival and growth over time and their impacts on local avian and plant communities.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program