Developing Dutch-elm resistant trees

photograph of rows of young elm trees in the fall

Young elm trees at the St. Paul campus elm tree nursery

Photo by John Schoolmeesters


MITPPC ranks Dutch elm disease as one of the most critical invasive pathogen threats to Minnesota. Caused by the fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, it has decimated the American elm in urban Minnesota, a tree known for its elegant form, full canopy, and winter hardiness. As cities also contend with the widespread loss of ash to emerald ash borer, there is a need for new trees to fill the gap. 

Researchers have been studying surviving elm trees in the region with the goal of understanding their natural resistance to Dutch elm. This work will screen for disease resistance traits on the path towards developing a winter-hardy Dutch elm-resistant variety. Team members aim to return native elm species back to the Minnesota landscape.

Research questions

  • What elm trees are disease-resistant?
  • How can we best propagate resistant elms?
  • What are the best methods to reintroduce resistant elms to the Minnesota landscape?

Practical implications

This work will produce new native elm varieties with a high level of resistance to Dutch elm disease, returning these magnificent trees back into our urban and forest landscapes.

Historically, elm has also been an important species in floodplain forests. Their loss has opened some sites to invasion by other plants, such as reed canarygrass. Restoring them could help prevent these kinds of opportunistic invasions.


Coming soon

News and media

Research team

Benjamin Held | co-principal investigator

Ryan Murphy | research fellow

Gary Johnson | cooperator

Robert Blanchette | cooperator


Lab or other website 


Collaborating organizations

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota State Parks

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board

City of Saint Paul

City of Duluth and other municipalities