Last fall I had the opportunity to join Mr. Don Willeke in observing the removal of a large 'Iowa State' American elm at his neighbor's house in the Dean Park area of Minneapolis. This large tree was planted in 1978, shortly after Don grafted it onto a wild American elm seedling. Unfortunately, the tree had developed major defects over the years (it had already been cabled and braced) and required removal for safety purposes.
Don is a local elm aficionado and has been "speaking for the trees" since the 1970s. He has been my host on many visits to the forest of elm trees (amongst other species) in and around his Dean Park home.
'Iowa State' was discovered and screened by Prof. Sandy McNabb at Iowa State
University from the late 1960s to early 1970s where it proved to be quite resistant to Dutch elm disease (DED) when inoculated with the fungus.
While not widely released (at least to my knowledge) this tree remains
an important reminder of those lucky escapes - native American elms with
high tolerance to DED. Unfortunately, the structure of this tree is less than ideal as it has a tendency to form weak branch unions due to inclusions and very acute angles of attachment.
In my ongoing efforts to make-lemonade-outta-lemons I worked with Don and Jay Linn from Log and Limbs Company (who was performing the removal) to collect some prime cuttings material for cloning of this now rare tree.
By the end of the removal process Don and I were able to collect some vigorous vegetative shoots from the very top of the tree, which I brought back to the University for propagation and inclusion into our elm program.
Now, weeks later, I transplanted some of the first rooted cuttings of 'Iowa State' and can now add this tree to the growing collection of elms at the University of Minnesota.
Plants are also slated for distribution to the USDA National Arboretum in Maryland for inclusion into their continuing work on the American elm.