Young elms return to London

Ulmus londinium puts the elm back into Elm Park Gardens

Londoners from streets, houses and parks around the capital with ‘elm’ in their names collected their specially grown elm saplings from The Conservation Foundation’s first Ulmus londinium elm distribution which took place at the Garden Museum in Lambeth, below, on Sunday 11 November.


Elm Grove, Elm Bank Avenue, Elm Park (Clive Gray collected his elm, below) and even the Elmwood Luxury Pet Hotel are a few of the places where the future of London’s elms lies thanks to the Ulmus londinium programme. Their new owners collected their sapling and a tube of Carbon Gold's GroChar to give them the best possible start in life.

The project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, also includes a survey of London’s surviving elm population through a Natural History Museum online map and a film on the elm’s heritage in the capital.

Dutch elm disease was a disaster in the last century and Ash Dieback reminds us how precious our native tree population is. Says Conservation Foundation Director David Shreeve, above left with Russell Ball of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Foundation's James Coleman, right, “We are very fortunate in this country to have a rich and diverse tree population but any loss within its biodiversity is to be regretted. That's why after the loss of over 20million elm trees The Conservation Foundation continues to work with possible disease resistant trees in the hope that we can find replacements for some of those lost. It is important to maintain a rich biodiversity of trees for, like people, trees have unique qualities and uses.”

Lesley Crowcroft, below, is leading the return of elms to Eastcote

The Conservation Foundation is offering a free sapling to any Londoner who lives in a place with ‘elm’ in its name and would like to bring back some history and biodiversity (the elms supports a rich biodiversity including the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly). More distributions will follow, a number of high profile plantings will also take place and parks and local authorities are to be offered elms.

Micropropagated from healthy mature parent elms found growing in the British countryside and monitored by the Foundation, the London saplings were grown on at a nursery at the Lambeth environmental and education charity Roots and Shoots. They are part of The Great British Elm Experiment, a UK-wide programme of The Conservation Foundation.

The young trees have over-summered at various parks and gardens around the capital, from the appropriately named High Elms Park in Bromley, to Syon Park; Hampstead Heath and Lambeth Palace to Sydenham Gardens and East Ham Park.

A film, London Elm A to Z, on the cultural history of the elm in the capital is in production. From the pipes that brought the water to the medieval city, the foundations of London Bridge of nursery rhyme fame, the coffins of the Tudor court and the hanging tree of Tyburn, the elm is inextricably woven into the life of the capital.

These unique elm projects are part of The Conservation Foundation’s 30th anniversary and also celebrate 2012’s other highlights of the Olympics and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Foundation owes its existence to an earlier elm programme and many of the hybrid trees planted then continue to thrive all over the country. 

As David Shreeve explains, “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."

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