Return of the Elm

by | 5th August 2016

Fifty years after Dutch Elm Disease wrought havoc, wiping out virtually every elm in Britain, David Archer Associates are working to bring these beautiful trees back to our streets and parks.

Brighton and Eastbourne were among the few areas of the UK spared the total devastation of the 1960s and 70s, a fact which has allowed us to develop considerable expertise in this subject.

Encouraging more planting
So it was with some pride that we recently sponsored an Elm Study Day in Brighton for members of the London Tree Officers Association and the Arboricultural Association SE Branch.

Our hope was to spread the word about the benefits of these magnificent trees, and encourage more councils to plant them again. From the enthusiastic feedback we received from the 70 delegates, we are optimistic.

A primary aim was to reacquaint professional tree officers – many too young to remember Dutch Em Disease – with the value of using elms in an urban environment. Elms are able to cope with the shallow chalk-based soils and fierce salt winds of the South coast, and tolerate well the extreme pruning required in urban areas to keep them to an acceptable size.

Native species
Our London guests were also impressed that they are a native species (whereas London planes are not), and a favourite habitat of species such as the highly endangered white letter hairstreak butterfly, making them an ecologically sound as well as robust choice. Although they are prone to disease the danger can be alleviated with careful management.

Comments from delegates included “enlightening”, “fascinating”, “useful” and “very worthwhile.”

An uplifting day
The elms in Brighton are of international importance – there are many varieties scattered throughout the city. The Study Day included talks on the History of Elms in Brighton and the National Elm Collection (sited in Brighton), given by local speakers with unmatched expertise. Attendees then took a guided walking tour around Preston Park.

This was a free event, funded by David Archer Associates as part of our commitment to thought leadership in arboriculture. It was uplifting to hear delegates talking about incorporating elms in the species mix in their own areas.