The Great British Elm Experiment

The Conservation Foundation is attempting to unlock the mystery of why some trees survived Dutch elm disease which wiped out over 25 million elms in the UK.

Why are we running the project?

Cuttings taken from mature trees from across the UK that appear to have resisted Dutch elm disease for over 60 years have been skillfully micro propagated. The resulting native saplings are being distributed to thousands of schools, community groups, local authorities and private landowners who have signed up to take part in The Great British Elm Experiment.

"We want to interest a new generation in the elm, so much a feature of the British life and landscape for centuries and also to try and find out why some trees survived Dutch elm disease. So many have disappeared over recent years that we can only hope to replace some. But rather than just give up and forget the elm, we think it's worth a try." - David Shreeve, Director, The Conservation Foundation

Cartoon of a student measuring an elm tree Height, girth, wildlife, signs of disease and other data is being recorded from over 2,000 saplings as part of this long-term experiment. It is hoped that in time a new generation of elms will become established throughout the UK and a new generation of young people will be encouraged to value the elms and with it the importance of biodiversity more broadly. The project also heralds hope for wildlife like the White-letter hairstreak butterfly which relies on the habitats elms create.


This exciting project was launched during the UN's International Year of Biodiversity. Partners in the project include MicroPropation Services, Thorpe Trees and Trees Direct.

How do I take part?

The planting phase of The Great British Elm Experiment ended at the end of 2016. If you have already received a sapling you can register it on the online map to join the experiment!

Ongoing care

You can download tips on planting and caring for your elm sapling and view our short video. To grow on elm seed or cuttings these tips may be helpful.

You can also join the Facebook group to find out about the latest elm happenings at ElmsElmsElms.

Elm Education

Activity sheets: The one-page sheets linked below give information and activity ideas on how elms are used by humans, in nature, and literature and art. They're aimed at Key Stage 2 classes, but the information and activies can be developed by following the Teacher resources links. Please get in touch if you have any comments. Registered participants can also login to their Profile and visit the Elm Lab for more ideas.

Online map: In London, you can also download a PDF map to help you explore some of the capital's elm heritage here, and follow a short tour of soem of central London's elms with the mobile-friendly website An elm adventure from Somerset House to "Albertopolis".

Elm conference: Presentations from an elm conference in June 2016, supported by The Conservation Foundation, can be viewed here. Also, see the link at the bottom of the conference page to the 2015 Brighton seminar.


 Download the Humans sheet (PDF format)

Find out how elm wood's qualities make it good for numerous uses and helped keep London Bridge standing for six centuries.

Teacher resources: Find out more uses of elm at the Wych Elm Project.


 Download the Nature sheet (PDF format)

Find out the role elms play in nature and what they are particularly good for.

Teacher resources: Find out more on elms and nature at the Trees for Life website.


 Download the Literature & Art sheet (PDF format)

Find out how elms have been symbolised and used in stories, poems, and art. Literature and art activity ideas included. 

Teacher resources: Find out more on John Constable's use of elms in the V&As Memory Maps: Elm article. An analysis of how John Clare uses an elm as a symbol for political problems in 19th century England in a poem can also be found online by the John Clare Society.


You can also view "The A to Z of London Elms" short video (13 minutes). Aimed at primary school students, the video introduces the importance of the elms and some of the incredible uses they have had.



Contact us

To find out more, get in touch