Elm Recovery Project

historical slide of white elm next to farm house

The White elm or American elm as it is also known once graced our towns, roadsides and fields. When the Dutch Elm Disease (DED) arrived in Ohio in 1943, all of that began to change. Efforts to stop the spread of DED took on military characteristics as almost every elm in its path, even healthy trees, were cut in advance of the disease. Foresters suggested that the sun was going to set on the beautiful American elm. DED was very aggressive with the native slippery (red) elm and rock elm, both of which are now rarely seen as large trees, the white elm fared slightly better.

We now know that the DED attacks every elm, but many trees have a strong enough immune system to live for 20 to 30 years, reaching about 20 to 40 cm diameter. Some may live 60 to 90 years and attain the classic elm silhouette. Scattered across Ontario, unusually large, surviving elms are as big as 500 cm or 15 feet in circumference. So isolated are they that little opportunity exists for DED tolerant trees to cross pollinate and produce the next generation.

white elm at the side of the road

The Elm Recovery Project is designed as a "dating service" for these lonely elms. With the help the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and many newspapers, word spread across Ontario that The Arboretum needed information leading us to any elm greater than 7' circumference and financial support to attain a first three year operating fund of $40,000 and a recovery endowment fund of at least $100,000.

We underestimated the number of elms that would be reported! Our database of reported elms now contains over 1800 records and we have visited over 600 of the most promising specimens which can be found throughout Ontario, from Windsor to Sault Ste. Marie and over to Ottawa. Our goal was to collect cuttings from the most promising of these trees and propagate them for testing. Immune system challenge tests are being done by researchers from the University of Toronto and selections are being made. Please reference the Elm Recovery Newsletter below for the latest updates.

As explained in the Newsletter prior to Henry Kock’s death his vision was that the Elm Recovery Project was but a stepping stone to a larger program involving any endangered native species and so in honour of Henry the endowment fund was renamed the Henry Kock Tree Recovery Endowment. The Elms are the first species to be investigated. Butternut, American Beech, Dogwood and Ash are also under threat and techniques developed in working with the Elms may be applied to these species if applicable.

white elm and horses in the snow

All donations to the Henry Kock Tree Recovery Endowment  (Elm Recovery Project) are gratefully acknowledged and can be found in a PDF below.

If you know of large elms in your area or if you wish to support this unique project, please find the Elm Recovery Reporting Form below.

File attachments