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Domain tree succumbs to Dutch elm disease

Published: 24 January 2019

Dutch elm disease has been confirmed on a large Huntingdon elm tree in the Auckland Domain, located near the band rotunda.

The fungal disease can spread quickly through a tree and is almost always fatal. Under the Biosecurity Act 1993, it is classified as an unwanted organism and infected trees must always be removed to halt further spread of the disease, and prevent dying trees becoming a hazard.

The tree is scheduled for removal on Tuesday 29 January.

Auckland Council arboriculture and eco specialist, Simon Cook, says it is heart-breaking to have the disease confirmed on another of Auckland’s iconic trees.

“It is incredibly sad to see another of our large specimen elm in central Auckland succumb to this voracious tree disease.

“Unfortunately, removal is our only choice and we are committed to doing so safely and respectfully.

“The disease is arbitrary in nature, making it difficult to eradicate, and as such our programme has focused on ongoing monitoring, followed by identification and removal of any infected elm material,” he says.

“There is another elm about thirty metres away from this infected tree, so we are keeping a close eye on its condition or signs of deterioration.”

What is Dutch elm disease?

  • It is caused by the fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi
  • The disease is commonly spread by the scolytus multistriatus (elm bark beetle) carrying fungal spores from an infected tree to disease free trees but can also be spread between trees via root grafting.
  • Dutch elm disease is a destructive fungal disease and is almost always fatal once a tree is infected.
  • It is critical that elm wood is not carried outside Auckland, especially as logs or firewood.
  • Infected trees must always be removed to prevent the disease spreading further, and the wood must be mulched to prevent dying trees becoming a source of infection, or a hazard. In some areas, burning or burying elm material is an option.
  • No storage of elm material is allowed.

How do I identify an infected tree?

  • Elm trees are easily distinguished by their large leaves, which feature serrated edges, symmetrical veins, and an asymmetrical base.
  • Watch for signs of wilting, curling, or yellowing leaves or dying or dead branches and trees.
  • If you think you've found an infected tree, contain it and contact us immediately. You should not move elm material in the greater Auckland area.
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