Butternut Recovery Program
Butternut Recovery Program*
Butternut canker disease has infected most of the butternut trees across the entire North American range. This fungal disease has been found on more than 95% of the butternut trees examined in eastern Ontario. There is no known cure for butternut canker disease, but some trees may be resistant to the disease just as some people are more resistant to colds that others.
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) is working with the Forest Gene Conservation Association and the Ontario Butternut Recovery Team to build a strong butternut recovery program across southern Ontario. With the help of numerous partners including the Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, the Ontario Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Ferguson Forest Center, Stewardship Councils and Conservation Authorities (including the Raising Region Conservation Authority), and most importantly local landowners, RVCA is locating healthy butternuts and planting vigorous butternut seedlings through a regional Butternut Recovery Program. Landowners are reporting butternut trees found in their backyards, fence lines and woodlots. Conservation Authority staff then assess each tree for overall health and potential canker resistance. If the tree is healthy and has minimal to no canker infection, it is added to a database and mapped for future seed collection. Thousands of seeds are collected each year from select healthy parent trees to produce 2,000 vigorous seedlings that are in turn planted throughout eastern Ontario to replace the dead and dying butternut. As many seeds as possible are collected from the healthiest trees in the hope that what resistance may exist, will be passed onto the seedlings. Trees that are showing signs of canker resistance are monitored each year to determine their disease tolerance status.
So far, over 441 healthy trees have been found and recorded as potential seed sources for future seed collection. Thirty-seven of these trees show signs of possible resistance to the canker disease. Leaf samples have been sent to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ Ontario Forest Research Institute for DNA testing to determine how many are hybrids or pure butternut species trees. Preliminary results suggest that about half are pure butternuts. Presently a program is underway to save the genetics of these possibly resistant trees through a long-term grafting program.
Small batches of seedlings are planted by interested landowners all across eastern Ontario in the hope of re-establishing the population. Over 8,550 butternut seedlings have been planted since 2006.
Click on map for larger view
Figure 1: Map of Butternut Recovery Program Projects in eastern Ontario 2006-2009
(RVCA web page, Nov 26/2010).
The Butternut Recovery Program is working to:
- Inform and educate landowners about butternut canker.
- Locate, assess and map mature healthy butternut trees with landowner help.
- Collect seeds from healthy parent trees and grow vigorous seedlings to replace butternut loss.
- Plant and monitor butternut seedlings on public and private sites throughout eastern Ontario.
- Assess the status of canker free trees every year.
- Collect scions from the healthiest pure butternut to graft for disease resistance screening.
- Work closely with the national and provincial Butternut Recovery Teams and other recovery efforts across Ontario.
For more information please contact:
Rose Fleguel, Buternut Recovery Technician
Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
Normand Genier, Soil and Water Conservation Specialist
Raisin Region Conservation Authority
*Fleguel. 2009. Butternut Recovery Program brochure. Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Manotick, Ontario.