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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Dutch Elm Disease Reemerges in Seattle

8/26/2008  2:30:00 PM
Peg Nielsen, 206.684.8114

Dutch Elm Disease Reemerges in Seattle
Residents should watch for elm trees bearing signs of disease

SEATTLE - The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) warns tree owners that Dutch elm disease (DED) has reemerged across the city. The department encourages citizens to be watchful and report the telltale signs of Dutch elm disease on trees located on public and private property. This is the typical season for the disease, which has already been found in the Seward Park, Kinnear Park, Maple Leaf and West Seattle areas. Trees citywide are being inspected and large elm trees will be removed from public property in several locations, as this is the only proven means of eliminating the disease.

Following Mayor Nickels' policy, each tree removed on public property will be replaced with two trees.

Because DED is a fungus that invades an elm's vascular system, causing the tree's immune system to stop circulating water, the disease's first symptoms are excessive wilting and/or drooping of leaves at the crown of the tree. The browning of the leaves usually starts at the tips of branches and works its way down the tree, and ultimately the tree dies.

SDOT's Urban Forestry staff, led by City Arborist Nolan Rundquist, is available to inspect and test suspicious looking elm trees located within Seattle street rights-of-way. They will provide a visual evaluation of trees and limited prevention assistance on private property, but cannot do testing of private property trees. DED provides a harsh lesson when a favorite elm tree must be removed, so Rundquist asks residents to be diligent in looking for its symptoms. The Urban Forestry staff can be reached at 206-684-TREE (8733) or via e-mail at For additional information, please visit

The disease is often transmitted by the elm bark beetle, which feeds, breeds and nests in elm wood and comes in contact with the fungus. Tiny fungal spores are then carried on beetles to healthy elm trees, sometimes miles away. Root grafts can also cause the spread of DED, as can storage of elm wood for firewood that is inhabited by elm beetles, which is believed to be the way the disease first spread to Washington State in 1974. Rundquist notes that no elm wood should be stored for firewood unless the bark has been removed.

The Seattle Department of Transportation builds, maintains and operates Seattle's $8 billion transportation infrastructure. To further Mayor Nickels' goal to get Seattle moving, the department manages short- and long-term investments in streets, bridges, pavement and trees, that better connect the city with the region.

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Seattle Department of Transportation

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