DNR Seeks Public Comment on Forest Management Plan

Bringing Back the American Elm

The native range of the American elm. Image provided by MSU Extension.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying the locations of American elm trees that are still standing and healthy in Michigan. Known as “survivor elms”, researchers are hoping that these trees will be the driving force behind a new, disease-resistant version of the American elm tree population.

Decimated by Dutch elm disease in the 1950s, the once-widespread American elm whithered and died throughout its range across eastern North America. These proud, attractive trees were a favorite in cities and suburbs across the U.S. and were found throughout forests in their native range. Following the fungal infection spread by elm bark beetles, the American elm tree population quickly faltered and was nearly wiped out.

Although Dutch elm disease is still present and able to infect new American elm trees, it is believed that there are still some trees standing that may not have simply avoided the disease, but actually have a genetic resistance to it. On behalf of Midwestern forest researchers, the DNR is now calling on the public to share the locations of surviving American elm trees anywhere in Michigan. Researchers intend to locate the tree so that a branch sample can be taken and used in their effort to create a new, disease-resistant variety of the American elm.

American elm lining a suburban street. Photo provided by Michigan DNR.

In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, state natural resource agencies throughout the Midwest have come together to bring back the American elm tree through the collection of branch samples. These samples will be used to create a seed orchard of genetically diverse

and resilient American elm trees that will not succumb to Dutch elm disease.

Due to the rarity of the sightings in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula, anyone with knowledge about the location of a healthy American elm in these regions is particularly encouraged to share information. However, any sighting of a healthy American elm tree throughout the state of Michigan is of interest to researchers.

Should you find or know where to find one of these rare American Elms, please record the location of the tree, its DBH at 4.5 feet above the ground and submit this information to the survivor elm website.



  1. terrence k Whitford on August 11, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    I have 3 pictures of what might be elm leaves from a tree next to my property in Oscoda Township, Michigan, 48750.

    The leaves are only about an inch and a half long. The tree is 13-14 inches across at 4 feet off the ground. Its treetop is equal to the mature red oak next to it. The limb structure resembles the elms I saw as a child in the 50s in Iosco County, MI. I hope I hear from you. I can send you leaf and tree photos. thank you, terry whitford.

    • Scott on April 29, 2021 at 7:56 am

      I know of a few survivors and new growth in West Virginia. Of course these were in their natural habitat but we lost most of our elms in the forest. Elm trees are easy to identify. The leaves are long with veins and have a “sandpaper” texture. Nothing else quite feels like an elm leaf. lol

    • Junopapa on March 11, 2022 at 2:43 pm

      You should submit the information as requested to the link in the article. Not in the comments here.

  2. Greg ODell on January 24, 2021 at 7:55 am

    I’ve got one. It’s 2ft wide at breast height and probably 60ft tall. I’m certain that it’s resistant to the disease because my son’s threw axes against it when they were children wounding about 1/3 of the trunk or more. It’s also filled with bark beetle holes all the way up the trunk. But it healed beautifully and continues to put on growth and a beautiful canopy each year. It is isolated inside a white pine stand as all other elms have died off in my county

  3. Kelly Kube on May 30, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    I am so excited because we believe to have found several American Elms in our woods in Huron County, Michigan. Specifically in Bad Axe, Michigan. We weren’t sure what all these trees were and after a hike yesterday, with some friends, I did some research online, and so did our friend. I told my husband I was pretty sure it was an Elm. Later, our friend contacted us and said the same! This makes me so happy!

  4. Beth Fink on June 20, 2021 at 9:30 pm

    I’m super excited to have discovered 2 elms in my yard. I always wondered what kind of tree this was and the guy at Milford Gardens identified them for me. We’ve lived here for almost 30 years and they were here before we moved in, so I’m guessing 35-40+/- years old? 22 inches in diameter. Oakland County.

  5. Kathe Suddendorf on August 5, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    We have a 30 year old Elm in our backyard. It was a baby from an old Elm that survived the disease. The old elm has since been cut down by its owner. Saline MI

  6. Jeri Noffsinger on May 16, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    I have a beautiful healthy dutch elm MDOT wants to cut down to extend a turn lane, its registered as a historical tree, how can they do this, anyone know where I can find help asap to prevent this..

  7. Susan Konyndyk on June 19, 2022 at 11:57 am

    I have way too many elm trees – all over my yard. These are not mature trees, perhaps in 3rd year. Rather than editing some out can I try to transplant them? I live in semi rural area, Sandy Oak savanna transitioning to Maples.

  8. Anne Ross on April 16, 2023 at 1:12 pm

    I have three huge American Elms

  9. Karen Deaton on May 7, 2024 at 11:35 am

    Back in 2000 when I was in college my college biology professor shared that the oldest or maybe the largest surviving American Elm at that time was in Michigan (my home state) – I beleive north of Ann Arbor. On my way home that Christmas break – I walked out into a snowy farm field to get a picture of it for him. Does anyone know if that’s an accurate memory? I’m trying to find an old listing of surviving trees by year. Regardless – I just found out my professor is still alive and lives near by – so I’m planning to get him the pictures (just 24 years late 🙂 … )

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