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“We thought the whole propagation process would take about a week,” says Stone, who has overseen the painstaking effort.“But it took four.” In the end, the three interns, with help from a band of volunteers, completed 4,827 cuttings. But three weeks later, more than 90 percent had successfully rooted, defying expectations. ” says Stone, who then worked nearly round the clock to get all the rooted cuttings potted.One after another, the giant trees were infected—and then swiftly cut down.Their famously arched silhouettes, which once soared in shady cathedrals of intertwining branches along countless community main streets, vanished, leaving behind barren stretches of pavement and neighborhoods stripped of beloved trees that had stood for generations. The devastation continued along the region’s riverbanks, where the elm had been an anchor species in the floodplain forests, providing critical habitat for wildlife and protecting human communities from rising waters during severe storms.If Marks has his way, though, the legend will live again.Elms along our riverbanks will help to save an entire ecosystem of expansive floodplain forests, and generations to come will experience once more the profound beauty of these soaring trees along our city streets.It’s almost noon, and the temperatures in the greenhouses at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst are climbing.
No one knows the ecology of floodplain forests better than Marks, who has spent years pulling on waders and exploring the Connecticut River watershed, often tramping through the forest understory in waist-high water.
First described in the Netherlands in 1919, the Dutch elm fungus is carried by the European elm bark beetle, which crossed the Atlantic in 1930 in a shipment of logs purchased by an Ohio furniture maker.
Before long, Dutch elm disease was sweeping across much of the eastern United States.
Those that survive, will eventually be transplanted into trial plots, where they will be tested for disease-resistance.
Many volunteers such as, left to right clockwise, Laura Kovarik, Crystal Leckie, Benjamin Wetherbee and Hannah Morrisey, have joined Stone in the greenhouses over several weeks to aid in the propagation of nearly 5,000 individual shoots.
Today, with help from The Nature Conservancy’s Christian Marks, success is closer than ever—which is good news for our floodplain forests, as well as our urban communities.