Planting Elm Trees

Planting (Elm) Trees: Return to the Past and Protect the Environment

In colonial times, the American Elm was one of the principal trees of its towns, cities, and farms.  Its planting on commons and along roadways became a New England standard.  American Elms can live to be over 300 years old, and grow to over a 7-foot diameter. They were everywhere during colonial times, in New Hampshire, and down the entire east coast.

However, in 1928, Dutch Elm Disease (DED), a fungal disease, came into North America, carried by elm logs shipped from Holland.  Before the disease arrived, there were an estimated 77 million North American elms; sixty years later, 75% of American elms had died, leaving many Elm Streets devoid of elms.  

After many years, researchers noticed that in several areas hard-hit by DED, an occasional tree, here and there, continued to survive and prosper.  These trees became the source of disease-resistant trees.  These trees were tested in the 1990s by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as part of their elm trials, to determine best disease resistance and formed trees.

Over the last three decades, these DED resistant trees have been propagated and studied by the USDA, the Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, many universities, and several private companies.  It is now possible to buy and plant DED resistant American Elm trees, and several have now been planted in Amherst.  Two years ago, with the support of the Amherst Conservation Commission two ‘Princeton’ elms were planted on the common, and this year, two ‘Valley Forge’ elms were planted, one in Meadow View Cemetery, and one at Buck Meadow.  Major government-approved resistant elms include ‘Princeton’, ‘Valley Forge’, ‘New Harmony, and ‘Jefferson’.  The ACC will study the growth of these disease resistant Elms, and if successful, may plant additional Elms to replace those lost over time and bring back a native species from colonial times; once again, the village could attain the feel and grace that these statuesque trees convey.

Planting and studying Elm trees, protecting and managing forests so they remain healthy is one of the most important responsibilities of the Amherst Conservation Commission.  Over 2,600 acres of conservation lands are overseen and managed by the Commission so they can remain healthy habitats, provide a source of revenue and allow for outdoor recreation. These forests, along with the trees in your backyard and those throughout NH help clean the air we breathe, conserve energy, prevent erosion and support homes, food and shelter for a diverse range of wildlife.   Even dead trees have value, many serve as habitats for birds and rodents, and continue for a long time to store energy.  Individuals and families can also help assure that our trees and forests are protected and remain healthy.   


Here are just a few Acts of Green you can try.  One is not more important than another.  Taking action is what counts. You can do it at your own pace, but try one on.  


·       Work with your school, scout troop, or the Garden Club to plant a native tree (Elm) seedling; the National Wildlife Federation or Arbor Foundation, can offer free tree give-a-way programs. Tree giveaway events typically involve distributing seedlings to individuals (often students) who will plant the trees and care for them at home; Disease resistant American Elms can be purchased, with some assistance from local nurseries.  Talk to one of the local nurseries in the Amherst area, if you are interested in planting an Elm. 

·       Join a program to help communities recover from hurricanes, tornados or fires by helping directly or by contributing to an organization working to plant trees in the devastated areas.

·       Contribute to projects like United Nations International Day of Forests which bring together the important work of reforestation and sustainable community development. A $1.00 donation can also go to planting peach, plum, walnut, lemon and/or apricot trees that not only secure and nourish the land — they nourish people too.

·       Encourage natural resource managers, conservation professionals and developers to practice climate adaptation and incorporating climate mitigation considerations into their work, i.e.Climate-Smart Conservation guidelines.


Below are a few other resources that can help your follow-up on your Acts of Green. 




This article is one of a series of articles that will focus on the activities of the ACC and the environmental issues it addresses in its work.  The series is also an opportunity for others in the community to share their ideas about environmental and conservation matters.  Guest contributions to the series are welcome. Please submit your article to the ACC at this link