Wichita area sees outbreak of elm seedlings

06/02/2014 3:20 PM

06/03/2014 9:46 AM

A proliferation of elm seeds is covering seemingly every available inch of bare soil in the Wichita area with little green leafy seedlings.

“It’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Pat McKernan, garden supervisor at Botanica, said of the elm outbreak. “This year I think every one (elm tree) that bloomed produced the seed, and they’re really prolific this year.”

If it’s not the elms, it’s the maples. And cottonwoods are cottoning heavily.

“Everything looks like it has a rather heavy seed crop right now,” extension agent Bob Neier said Monday of the trees. And that’s because they did not freeze during bloom, he said.

“Plus stressed trees seed heavier. Everything’s stressed, from heat and drought and cold – everything. Then last summer, from drought and wet. Twenty inches (of rain) in 21 days in July and August damaged some things.”

If you think your yard has it bad, think of Botanica, with its every nook and cranny.

“You clean them and the next week there’s a brand new crop,” McKernan said.

So what are Botanica’s gardeners cleaning them out with? A hoe.

“Use a small, sharp hoe, and they scratch out so easy now,” Neier said of the seedlings.

The elm-seedling leaves start out as perfectly round little circles before elongating as they grow.

In the lawn, mowing will kill out 99 percent of the seedlings, Neier said. For those that hang on, you can use a broadleaf-weed killer – the same as used for dandelions – in the fall on a day without wind. The weed killer also can be used now but shouldn’t be necessary.

If the seedlings dry out, that will also do them in, McKernan said. But if they have enough moisture and soil, there’s nothing to stop them from becoming trees.

“That’s how come the fence rows get full of them,” he said.

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