Londoners - help map the capital\'s elms

This year, Londoners are being asked to look for a special sign of spring – elm blossom –and to help The Conservation Foundation plot London’s elm tree population by recording their sightings on an online elm map created by the Natural History Museum.

Everyone enjoys seeing spring. Parks and gardens are all beginning to give a hint of the warmer weather we’ve all been looking forward to and soon the distinctive bright green seeds, left,  will appear on London’s elms, making it easy for everyone, even those who find it difficult to tell trees apart, to recognise an elm.

Elm seeds (Ulmus procera).
Credit: FC Picture Library /
Isobel Cameron

Ulmus londinium, The Conservation Foundation’s London elm project, which is being supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Ernest Cook Charitable Trust, was launched recently in the spectacular surroundings of the Natural History Museum's Darwin Centre.

The interactive elm map on the Museum’s urban tree survey website means anyone can take part, add details on-line of elms anywhere within the M25 and see where trees have been recorded.

David Shreeve, director of The Conservation Foundation said, “Many people think all our elms have gone, killed off by Dutch elm disease in the 70s, but we know of several healthy, mature trees growing in London and there could well be many more.” He continued, “Once the blossom has gone, elms can be identified from their leaves and Londoners will be encouraged to collect leaves from the trees they have recorded and bring them to the Museum on special elm identification days to discover what sort of elm they are.“

There are several different types of elm in London, many from a variety of locations around the world, which all add to the interest for ‘elm spotters’.

The Conservation Foundation plans to add to elm numbers by combining its thirtieth anniversary in 2012 with the Queen’s Jubilee by offering young elms from its Great British Elm Experiment to communities with ‘elm’ in their street or area names. The Foundation is also making a DVD showing how elm has been used throughout London’s heritage and is hoping Londoners will be able to provide items to film and put in an exhibition which the Foundation plans to stage in 2012.

During the evening the Forestry Commission's Ron Melville announced the launch of the 2012 London Tree and Woodland Grant Scheme. This will support two separate grants, the Community Grant, which is part of The Government's Big Tree Plant and the Mayor's Street Tree programme. 

Guests also heard from Martin Powell, Mayoral Adviser on the Environment.  Protecting London's tree health is a top priority for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Earlier this week he announced £450,000 to help increase tree volunteering and tree planting as part of his RE:LEAF programme. The Mayor said: "Our forebears bestowed upon us a wonderful legacy of trees that deserve our protection. Ulmus londinium is a fantastic addition to my RE:LEAF programme offering a practical way for people help us secure the health of our city's great trees for generations to come.”

The final speaker, David Bellamy made a passionate plea for the elms of London, "Find them, cherish them, be proud of them.And pray that somewhere in this metropolis, there are the genes of survival." He then presented an elm sapling from the Foundation's Great British Elm Experiment to Stuart Hine, manager of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, who hosted the launch, which will be planted in the Museum's wildlife garden.