More residents choosing elms that are disease resistant

During the past 30 years Dutch elm disease in Jamestown has wiped out thousands of trees, and now Jamestown has hundreds of disease-resistant elms taking their place.

Elm, Infected
Vern Quam, city forester, stands Thursday near an American elm tree infected with Dutch elm disease in southeast Jamestown. Quam estimates about 150 American elms were infected this year. John M. Steiner, The Sun

During the past 30 years Dutch elm disease in Jamestown has wiped out thousands of trees, and now Jamestown has hundreds of disease-resistant elms taking their place.

This year there are 150 infected American elm and Siberian elm trees in Jamestown. Years ago that number was well over 200. But Vern Quam, Jamestown forester, wants to see less than 70 affected trees.

Dutch elm is a fungus that attaches itself to an elm bark beetle which burrows into the tree. Once active the fungus attacks the tree's vascular system, cutting off food and water supplies.

Quam has seen the disease take out blocks of trees that once lined Jamestown boulevards. Currently he estimates there are anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 elms in Jamestown. That's half of what it once was.

Part of the solution is a quality control program that the city forestry department has in place. Quam inspected and marked each of the 150 trees found this year with Dutch elm and notified the property owner that it must be removed.


"It's not just taking down trees but we're coming back to elms again," he said of replacing the diseased trees.

The forester recommends that people who lost trees to Dutch elm disease who want a similar-type tree choose from disease-resistant elms. Those include the prairie expedition American elm, accolade elm, homestead elm, triumph elm and vanguard elm.

But the best choice for Quam is the fast-growing cathedral elm, which grows as fast as a poplar tree.

"I've been recommending it a lot, and a lot of people have been asking me about it," he said.

One of the earliest cathedral elms planted here was about seven years ago in southeast Jamestown, and so far the tree has made noticeable progress.

"He's parking his truck in the shade and it's only been six, seven years," Quam said referring to the landowner and the shade from the young tree.

Currently there are between 50 and 75 cathedral elms in Jamestown and a total of more than 250 Dutch elm-resistant elms that Quam helped plant.

But rather then replace elms Quam said he would rather stop the spread of Dutch elm and the easiest way to do that is control the spread of the disease by not purchasing or moving elm firewood.


"We have a pretty good handle on it, but the biggest question I have is elm firewood," he said.

Because the beetle bores under the bark it can be transported when firewood moves with campers or hunters.

Quam said there are reliable local firewood merchants who sell a quality and environmentally safe product.

This is also one of the main deterrents to stop the spread of another boring insect emerald ash borer.

Quam said with EAB approaching and Dutch elm still looming he will work to increase and enforce fines for having and moving those types of firewood.

"The thing is there are some very disappointing people where I have found elm wood and they should know better," he said.

Sun writer Ben Rodgers can be reached at (701) 952-8455 or by email at

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