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Dutch Elm Disease?

Q: We have a huge elm tree in our front yard and it lost a few branches last year. This year we are losing a lot of leaves and a number of branches are dead. What can we do?

Carol R

A: It is possible your elm has Dutch elm disease. Symptoms of this disease include leaves that turn yellow but stay on the tree, then shrivel up and turn brown. Or, they might just shrivel up and turn brown without yellowing first.

You may also have elm anthracnose, which is a leaf fungus. This disease, commonly a result of overly-wet spring weather like we had here in Cleveland, is not life-threatening like Dutch elm disease so I would have a qualified arborist check it out. Or, take samples to your local extension agent's office to see if they can narrow it down for you.

Once you know what you're dealing with, you can decide how to proceed. Dutch elm disease is very difficult to handle if it's already in the tree. Only a small infection can doom the biggest of elms.

Anthracnose is a bit easier. Generally, clean up and dispose of fallen leaves, particularly in fall, as the disease overwinters in them.

By removing the leaves, you are removing literally millions of spores from laying around in your yard, ready to come back and infect the tree next year if conditions are favorable.

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Arborist Tom Mugridge

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