Elm tree experts from across Europe, gathering in Brighton last week for an elm conference organised by The Conservation Foundation, called for World Heritage Status for the city’s National Elm Collection, which holds the largest and most diverse population of elms in the UK.
Meeting in the shade of some of Brighton’s finest elms in Preston Park, the experts from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands inspected a number of elms being developed which could have strong resistance to disease. They also discussed how their combined expertise could support research to provide stocks of more elm varieties and be used to bring a new standard to tree production to avoid unproven claims which often lead to trees falling foul of disease. Several types of elm have been introduced in the past 30 years with claims of resistance which have proved unfounded. The new group believes a ‘kite mark’ backed by their combined knowledge and experience would save costs to gardeners, local authorities and national governments in lost plants and provide new hope in developing Europe’s tree populations.
The conference was part of The Conservation Foundation’s Ulmus Maritime elm tree project for the Sussex coast, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was supported by Hillier Nurseries, suppliers of the ‘New Horizon’ fully tested resistant elm. Delegates included many of Europe’s leading figures active in the area of elm disease control, management of mature trees and propagation of disease resistant varieties.
Supporting the elm initiative, Caroline Lucas, Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion said, “Elm trees are a significant part of Brighton & Hove’s natural heritage, indeed it’s hard to imagine the city’s streets and parks without them. Elms lend the city and landscape a distinct character and it’s essential we do all we possibly can to protect them.”
David Shreeve, Director of The Conservation Foundation, which has been involved with elms for more than 30 years said, “Brighton’s elm population is amazing and still for many an unknown feature of its environment. Promoting its elms would bring visitors from far and wide and provide the city with a major added visitor attraction.
He added,” It is important we build on the success of today’s event. More recent tree pathogens, most notably ash dieback, have shown that all trees can become susceptible to destructive outbreaks and we cannot afford to forget about particular species. We almost lost our elm population once, we mustn’t get so close again to the edge.”