Disease plagues Winnipeg trees

The number of Winnipeg trees with Dutch Elm Disease has doubled in the past few years says the city forester.

The number of Winnipeg trees with Dutch Elm Disease has doubled in the past few years says the city's forester.

Winnipeg's forester Martha Barwinsky said it appears the beetle that carries the disease is moving from the city's riverbank areas.

"Perhaps the elm bark beetle may be moving into the boulevard areas from the riverbank areas," said Barwinsky. "We continue to lose more and more trees on the riverbank, so it may be pushing them onto the boulevard trees."

Barwinsky said the city is now using a fungicide on several streets in the River Heights neighbourhood in an attempt to control the infestation.

The treatment costs about $100 per tree.

Barwinsky said the treatment is a pilot project that could be used in other affected areas if it's successful.

The outbreak is especially concerning in the city's River Heights, Crescentwood and Fort Garry neighbourhoods where more than 1,800 trees will be removed.

The American elm, a hallmark of Canadian boulevards, parks and playgrounds can grow up to 35 metres high and can live 300 years. But once a tree is infected with Dutch Elm Disease, its lifespan is shortened to just a few years.

The disease is caused by a fungus carried by bark beetles. The tree reacts to the presence of the fungus by plugging its own tissues. That prevents water and nutrients from travelling up the trunk, eventually killing it.