Residents save tree through vaccination
BY KELSEY JAMES
When roommates Beverly Suek and Lynda Trono began to feel like the City of Winnipeg wasn’t doing enough to save diseased elm trees, the two Riverview residents took matters into their own hands.
“You go for a walk down the street or in the park and there’s all those red dots on trees that are going to be taken down,” Suek, 76, said. “There’s just so many, and we have a beautiful canopy here in Riverview. With the climate getting hotter, the places that have a lot of trees are just generally cooler. Trees are very important to keep us alive.”
Twenty-five years ago, the duo lost one of its beloved boulevard trees to Dutch elm disease, a fungus that’s passed along by the elm bark beetle. The City of Winnipeg told Suek and Trono it would take up to 10 years to get a replacement tree unless they wanted to purchase one themselves.
Rather than wait a decade, they opted to purchase their own. They eventually learned about inoculating trees, which is a process of inserting a formula into the roots which then spreads throughout the tree and prevents it from getting disease.
The roots of the tree are exposed, holes are drilled and tubes are inserted into its base. Water is mixed with the inoculate and then flushed through the whole tree. The procedure is complete after the roots are covered.
“Most people don’t know you can inoculate against Dutch elm disease,” Suek said, adding that she and Trono inoculated one of their own trees four weeks ago. “There’s been a lot of promotion of taking trees down and replacing them, but it will before 40 years before we can get the canopy we have now. We want to get the message out that you can inoculate.”
Suek and Trono aren’t the only people to turn to inoculation to vaccinate trees against Dutch elm disease. in 2015, Charlottetown, P.E.I., adopted the technique to help preserve its remaining American elms (at the time, the city had cut down approximately 300 infected trees).
“We see this as a solution that no one has really caught onto yet,” Suek said.
“When I lived in Wildwood Park, we had a tree on our property that was marked as having Dutch elm disease,” Trono, 63, added. “We had an arborist looking at it and he told us he could save it. It involved cutting off a branch and injecting it with the fluid. The tree was saved, so that’s how I know this works.”
The cost to inoculate depends on the size of the tree, but the one on Suek and Trono’s boulevard of their Riverview home cost $770.
“If you have a favourite tree on your property, it’s probably worth doing it,” Suek said. “But we also want the city to be putting some resources into inoculating rather than just taking trees down. There should be some more consideration for prevention. I think it’s great the city is replacing them, but it needs to be a twofold process, and I’d like to see both individuals doing it and the city doing it.”
Suek and Trono’s efforts have garnered the attention of neighbours. They’ve spoken with other Riverview residents, and some are even now thinking of inoculating one or two of their trees.
Kelsey James is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She graduated from Red River College’s creative communications program in 2018 as a journalism major and holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications from the University of Winnipeg. A lifelong Winnipegger who grew up in southwest Winnipeg, Kelsey is thrilled to be covering the neighbourhoods she still calls “home.”