Invasive species resistant trees planted in Ludington

Trees resistant to beech bark disease were planted in Ludington State Park. Photo Courtesy: DNR

MASON COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- An Ohio researcher planted disease-resistant trees throughout a northern Michigan park.

Jennifer Koch, an Ohio-based biologist with U.S. Forest Service, first visited Ludington State Park in 2002 when beech bark disease had just begun infesting the trees.

For the last 15 years, Koch has made annual trips to Ludington to collect and study the insects that transmit the fungal disease from tree-to-tree.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says beech bark disease is a fungus that kills wood and blocks the flow of sap. Affected trees get sick and eventually die.

Koch returned to Ludington last week with the results of her years of research: 250 beech seedlings bred in the lab to resist the disease.

Park staff and volunteers helped plant the 3-year-old trees. They range in height from 3- to 6-foot-tall trees.

The seedlings were created by cross-pollinating regular trees with naturally occurring disease-resistant trees.

While the resistant trees won't be completely immune to the disease, they will be up to 50 percent more effective against the disease than non-resistant trees.

"At least half of them, if not more, are going to grow up and never come down with the disease," Koch said."

According to James Gallie, manager of the park, the trees were planted around the park in places that were hit the hardest by the disease.

"It looks like we're finally going to push back against this invasive tree disease," Gallie said. "This is a very important first step."

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