In Michigan and Mason county, beech bark disease has been devastating to beech trees. Now, 250 beech seedlings bred in the lab of U.S. Forest Service research biologist Jennifer Koch from disease-resistant trees are returning to Ludington State Park.
Park staff and volunteers planted the 3-year-old, 3- to 6-foot-tall trees. Ludington was the first site in the state where the disease was discovered, back in 2000. Koch’s work involves cross-pollinating resistant trees; some of those in the lab were grown from seeds collected from a handful of resistant trees in Ludington State Park. The new trees aren’t fully immune from the disease, but their resistance will be from 1 or 2 percent to 50 percent better than a nonresistant tree. “At least half of them, probably more, are going to grow and never come down with the disease,” Koch said. It’s estimated that Michigan has lost more than 2.5 million of its 32 million beech trees since the disease was discovered.