Elm Research Institute

Liberty Tree Society
11 Kit St.
Keene, NH 03431
Phone: (603)358-6198, FAX: (603)358-6305
Email: info@libertytreesociety.org

About Us

Liberty Tree Society is a program of Elm Research Institute.

Elm Research Institute, a non-profit organization, was established in 1967 to rally support from the private sector for D.E.D. research. Through grants and membership dues, ERI research led to the development of a preventive injection for American elms and the introduction of the disease-resistant AMERICAN LIBERTY ELM.

ERI members organized a national movement to save the elm from extinction. The first step was to overcome a defeatist attitude toward the disease.


Key Dates In ERI History

  • 1968 Backed by the generosity of private foundations, ERI provided grants to leading researchers in the field of DED. The latest knowledge was brought to bear in a crash program focused on developing a DED control and a disease-resistant pure-bred American elm.

  • 1968 Persuaded the corporate community to turn research findings into treatment compounds.

  • 1975 Introduced the first practical pressure injection system for treating tree systemically,designed for use by arborists and elm owners alike. Over 100,000 American elms have been injected with E.P.A. approved "Elm Fungicide", with a success rate of over 95%". This compares with losses of over 50% in untreated trees during the same period.

  • 1983 Began propagating the AMERICAN LIBERTY ELM (Ulmus americana libertas), the first disease-resistant American elm with a pedigree and warranty against DED. The new tree is a product of twenty years of genetic research under ERI grants at the University of Wisconsin. A thoroughly American elm, it preserves the traditional shape and hardiness, unlike European or Asian hybrids.

  • 1984 Initiated distribution of Liberty Elms using "Johnny Elmseed" volunteers.

  • 1991 Started research to develop DNA markers for the American Liberty Elms.

  • 1994 700 Johnny Elmseed Nurseries established nationwide.

  • 1995 Introduction of the Liberty Tree Memorial commemorating our country's founding with the special planting of an American Liberty Elm.

  • 1996 Expansion of the Johnny Elmseed Nursery project to a regional level to serve multiple communities from a single nursery.

  • 2000 Introduction of the Demonstration Tree Program to provide cities with street-size trees for immediate planting.

  • 2000 Over 250,000 elms planted to date at this time there are less than 1% confirmed losses to DED.

  • 2001 Releases "Re-Elming America: the Johnny Elmseed Regional Nursery Project". An inspirational 12 minute educational video designed to motivate local volunteer groups and encourage local sponsors.

  • 2001 Introduces Lifetime Warranty on American Liberty Elm.

  • 2003 First reports from field indicating Liberty Elms recover completely from DED attack if pruned immediately and severely.

  • 2001 ERI offers special Liberty Tree Memorial for towns who wish to honor victims of the tragic events that took place September 11.

  • 2007 Approximately 350,000 disease-resistant Liberty Elms have been planted across the U.S. at this time there are less than 5% confirmed losses to DED.

  • 2008 Over 300 communities have "Liberty Tree" Memorials. ERI's goal is 1,000 Memorials by 2010.

  • 2009 The "Liberty Tree" Society - founded to honor America's first symbol of freedom is established.

  • 2010 More reports of complete recovery when Liberty Elms pruned severely at first sign of DED.

  • 2011 Nearly 500 Liberty Tree Memorials established in time for Liberty Tree Day observance, August 14 when Governors, Mayors and State Representatives are asked to read the Liberty Tree Day proclamation at their Liberty Tree Memorial.
  • 2018 Mayflower Compact Memorial offered to celebrate the Pilgrim’s landing in Massachusetts in 1620. This 400th anniversary, in 2020, will be a milestone; deserving an historic tribute to honor those who, in signing “the Compact”, laid the foundation for the independence and freedom we cherish to this day.  


The Future of the American Elm...

In order to address the future of the American elm, a bit of history is useful.
American elms have been prized for their towering beauty, deep shade and commanding presence since colonial times. Once a rallying point for America's earliest settlers, the strength and character of the American elm has become synonymous with the spirit and determination of the people who built this nation.


Elms thrived in nature and as an essential landscaping element in urban environments... many of us remember majestic arcades of elms arching over the streets of our hometowns. This picture changed dramatically in the 1930's when Dutch elm disease was inadvertently brought to our shores.


The ensuing arboreal disaster left most "Elm Streets" all across America without a trace of their namesakes. By the mid- 60's little hope was offered for American elms to make any kind of comeback. The scourge of Dutch elm disease still existed in the wild, and disease-resistant trees were a barely explored concept needing long-term experimentation and intensive research.


Fortunately, the dire need for a scientific solution to stem the complete demise of the American elm was a challenge which concerned Americans were willing to accept.


First Step:
Genetic Selection As a starting point for developing disease- resistant elms, Elm Research Institute (ERI) was able to acquire the surviving stock from an earlier screening program administered by Cornell University.

This effort was expanded in the 1970's and eventually resulted in a 17,000 tree plot located at the University of Wisconsin. Over a period of ten years the trees were put through exhaustive screening procedures using a series of deliberate, controlled inoculations of 10 different Dutch elm fungi.


Second Step:
Cloning The "best-of-the-best" surviving cultivars were patented and became the "parents" from which all future American Liberty Elms would be cloned. (Propagation by pollination is not an option when breeding for resistance.)


Third Step:
Field Testing Inoculations are a tool used only to simulate the infection process. In nature, beetles transmit the fungus by feeding on various new- growth tree parts thus introducing the toxic agent in vulnerable locations throughout the tree. Real-life situations - field tests - were required to determine exact levels of resistance. ERI researchers projected they could keep losses below 10%.


Thirty three years of field tests by Elm Research Institute (eventually involving over 300,000 trees) have produced the premier disease-resistant tree... the American Liberty Elm. Reported losses to Dutch elm disease are less than 10%!


Cloning and tracking every tree for a lifetime are the secrets to providing reliable data supporting claims for the survival of the American Liberty Elm. We believe ERI has the only documented data from long-term field testing currently available on any elm being described as resistant.


The future of the American Elm...
is in your hands.
There are several cultivars now being offered by the USDA and other growers claiming "resistance" to Dutch elm disease. They are just entering their true test period - the field test. How you evaluate them may avoid having to replace them in a few years.


Here are some key questions which should be answered to your satisfaction before planting any "resistant" variety, including our own American Liberty Elm:


1 How was the tree cloned ?

Using tissue culture, root cuttings or leaf cuttings?


2 What is the certified loss rate to date?
At ERI we register every tree and attach a permanent brass tag for identification. In this way we can certify losses.


3 Is a Lifetime Warranty included?

Can the supplier "put it in writing" ?


The answers to these questions will not only save embarrassment or heartache, but, more importantly, prevent another round of Dutch elm disease and its devastation of the American elm.