What You Should Know About Dutch Elm Disease

October 9, 2017

Tree care experts tend to cringe when they hear the words ‘Dutch elm disease.’ The fatal fungal disorder, spread by the elm bark beetle, has an extensive history. In 1931, a furniture company unknowingly bought infected logs from France. Similar to European elms, trees in the U.S. had no resistance to the disease. Just like that, the European elm bark beetle was introduced to America. By the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of elm trees were dying in America. Minnesota alone saw more than 30,000 publicly owned trees succumb to the disease. Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of Dutch elm disease.

This condition is unique in that the fungus can be carried from a diseased tree to a healthy one by the beetle, the roots of an infected tree grafting together underground with the roots of a healthy tree, or by contaminated pruning tools. As explained in this resource guide from Chicago Botanic Gardens, there is no cure for Dutch elm disease once a tree becomes infected.


It’s important to know that American elms are the most susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Though they can still contract the disease, Siberian and Chinese elms have been found to be more resistant. Researchers today are looking for ways to breed disease-resistant elms that still exhibit the attractive, open vase-shape of the elm tree.


The fungus causes the tree’s vascular system to become clogged, which prevents the flow of water and nutrients from the soil to the canopy. It doesn’t take long for leaves to wilt, change color, curl, and drop off the tree completely. Be sure to look at branches, too, as infected ones exhibit brown streaking in sapwood under the bark. If you happen to observe branch dieback, please have the tree tested by a reputable tree service. Diseased trees must be quickly removed to prevent spread to nearby elms. Keep in mind that if symptoms appear in late summer or early fall, it’s easy to confuse the change in leaf color with fall foliage.


Unfortunately, there is no available cure for Dutch elm disease. Commercially, licensed applicators are able to try certain fungicides. Once every few years, the products are injected into the infected tree. That said, there’s only so much that a tree care expert can do. Chicago homeowners are encouraged to plant disease and insect-resistant trees and to avoid planting one type of tree in their neighborhoods.

Here are some tips for keeping your elms healthy:

  • Make sure they receive one inch of water per week, especially during periods of drought.
  • Take advantage of deep root fertilization every few years.
  • Avoid growing grass directly up the trunk of the tree.
  • Peel back turf to create as large an area as possible where shredded wood or mulch chips can be applied two inches thick.
  • Be on the lookout for bare branches in the upper canopy, yellowing or dropping of leaves in spring/summer, or stunted growth.


A tree company will do whatever it can to restore a tree’s health. The reality, though, is that tree removal may be the only solution at times. At Pro Tree Service, we offer a hassle-free tree removal service for homeowners. From small bushes and shrubs to mature trees ravaged by disease, we can handle just about any project. We are proud to provide the best tree care solutions at the most competitive rates through our Best Price Guarantee. Just show us any written, reasonable estimate and we’ll beat it by 10 percent.

Fully licensed, insured, and bonded, it’s no secret why homeowners choose Pro Tree Service. We’ve been helping Chicago residents with their trees since 1989. We make it a point that customers understand all of the relevant risks and costs with our services. Through this education, homeowners can make the best decision possible for their situation.

If Dutch elm disease has taken hold of your tree, please don’t hesitate to call our experienced team. We will come up with a safe, effective, and efficient solution. Call Pro Tree Service now to request your free estimate.

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