Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kildonan Park visitors mourn loss of stately elms

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City forester Martha Barwinsky says Kildonan Park has lost a high number of elm trees due to Dutch elm disease. Most of them are near the Red River.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

City forester Martha Barwinsky says Kildonan Park has lost a high number of elm trees due to Dutch elm disease. Most of them are near the Red River. Photo Store

It's the worst Dutch elm disease attack to hit Kildonan Park in recent memory, with 100 elms cut down.

The elms were removed last fall, mostly from the banks of the Red River.

"It's drawn some attention," said city forester Martha Barwinsky. "The concern is it's probably the largest number of elms we've lost in Kildonan Park in a number of years."

In an average year, the city losses add up to 5,600 elms. Dutch elm is caused by a fungi that infects trees and the elm bark beetle that spreads it.

Those 5,600 elms amount to 1.5 per cent of the city's annual elm canopy in each of the last 30 years.

Last year, city surveys identified the 100 elms in Kildonan Park as infected with Dutch elm. That's 3.7 per cent of the park's elms, more than twice the citywide average.

Nobody really knows why, Barwinsky said.

"In some years, we have high incidence of Dutch elm disease and in other years, it's a high incidence of hazard elms; that's where 50 per cent or more of the canopy is gone and it's something that's tied to cycles throughout the city," Barwinsky said.

The cutting hasn't gone unnoticed. Dog walkers who regularly stroll the park say they've spotted the stumps.

"It's 100 trees? That's ridiculous," said Ron Miller, out with his family's Great Pyrenees. Dismayed, the dog owner shook his head, "I don't know what I'd do. I'm glad they're planting more trees," Miller said.

Another 65 trees of different types in the park were also cut down in recent weeks.

The raw stumps are visible everywhere and most of them are oak, maple and ash. All were dead, dying or decayed and were part of a routine cull. The weathered stumps are harder to pick out.

Passersby can safely figure they've found an elm if the inner bark hugging the stump is striped a distinct white and brown, like petrified wood.

The city is about to start a major reforestation effort, with plans this year to plant 100 trees at the popular Main Street park. But none will be American elms.

Across North American, Dutch elm disease has decimated urban elm forests. As a result, the trees planted this year will be native species, such as Manitoba maples and burr oak, as well as ornamentals, including Japanese lilac.

It's part of an effort to diversify the city's urban forest, Barwinsky said.

American elm used to be a long-lived tree with a lifespan of 300 years, but because of Dutch elm disease, it's tough to find a tree older than 100. Dutch elm cycles in severity and tends to move geographically. One part of the city is often hit hard in a given year.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2014 B1

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