Marie Noplos/Daily Journal: Keith Stafford with the city of Fergus Falls explains the difference in the color of the inside of a branch from a diseased elm tree branch.

Archived Story

The elm undertaker

Published 10:47am Tuesday, June 12, 2012 Updated 10:47am Tuesday, June 12, 2012

‘Tis the season for the sounds of chainsaws around the area as Fergus Falls loses more elm trees. Last year, the city lost 191 diseased elm trees.

Dutch Elm disease is a fungus spread by the elm bark beetle. The spread of the fungus can be slowed down by cooler temperatures and a spray that can be applied to infected trees.

“With the mild winter we had, everything got started earlier including the growth of the fungi,” said Keith Stafford, Fergus Falls city forester. “I will venture to say that we will have well over the amount of trees lost last year due to the warm temperatures.”

Stafford spends many of his days driving around the city testing each and every elm tree. Some of the signs to look for are wilted leaves on branches and yellowing leaves well before other autumn leaves turn.

Once Stafford spots an elm, he will stop and cut a sample of a wilted tree limb and pull back the bark to look at the color of the wood inside.

“If the inside of the bark wood is bright white, it isn’t infected, but if there are brown striations (series of ridges) in the wood, it is,” he said.

After the tree is tested, it is dated, measured and marked for removal. Stafford started his rounds testing for diseased trees the first week of May and will make it through all the elm trees nine times throughout the summer. Stafford has marked 77 diseased trees so far this season and anticipates marking many more.

With the help of Carr’s Tree Service, who does the removal and stump grinding of the trees, city officials hope to replace them with new trees next spring.

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