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Dutch elm disease (DED) Confirmed in Curtis Park

May 28, 2017

Sadly, Dutch elm disease (DED), a fungal disease with no known cure, claimed its first two casualties of the year in Curtis Park at the corner of 26th Street and Marshall Way in late April. Symptoms of DED appeared on the first elm on Monday and, by Thursday, that elm was close to death and the one next to it was beginning to show symptoms. (DED can spread fast!) Luckily, SacTree's staff were there to document the elms' sudden transformation for our supporters -- including our team of volunteer Citizen Scientists for our Save The Elms Program (STEP).

Photo #1 (left)
The leaves near the base of the elm look nice and healthy. Note the leaves have both serrated edges and asymmetrical bases.

Photo #2 (right)
The elm's leaves are noticeably starting to wilt. This symptom is similar to what happens when the elm has either too much or too little water. Our elms received plenty of rain this winter and spring, so we can eliminate too little water as a possible cause, and we are only now approaching summer, so we can eliminate too much water as a possible cause as well.

Photo #3 (left)

Green, healthy leaves have now wilted and turned brown. The leaves are still attached to the tree though -- a classic symptom of DED. If you were monitoring this elm, you would still need to perform a comprehensive inspection starting from the base of the tree and looking around the surrounding area to see if any major disturbances to the soil or planting site are detectable. If no such disturbances are detectable, the cause of the symptoms could be squirrel damage or DED. To eliminate squirrel damage as a possible cause, you will need to look at the branches just below where the wilting, brown leaves stop. If the bark is eaten there, then the symptoms you're seeing are most likely due to squirrel damage. In this case, the entire tree is "flagging", so we can be relatively sure it has DED. For another perspective, check out this video giving a comprehensive look at the symptoms of DED or this video showing the beginning stages of flagging.

Want a different perspective? Check out this video giving a comprehensive look at the symptoms of DED or this video showing the beginning stages of "flagging".

Want to join our team of Citizen Scientists working to save Sacramento's public elms from DED? Sign up for our next training for our Save The Elms Program (STEP) at the Sacramento Tree Foundation's office on Saturday, July 15. This training will give you the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to get started monitoring elms for DED symptoms using your mobile device.