The Great British Elm Experiment
A citizen-science initiative to fight tree disease and uncover the importance of the elm
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. More than 3,000 saplings are being grown on across the UK.
What are we doing?
Cuttings taken from mature trees from across the UK that appear to have resisted Dutch elm disease for over 60 years have been micro propagated. Since 2009, over 3,000 of these native saplings have been distributed to 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."
- David Shreeve, Director
Height, girth, wildlife, signs of disease and other data is being recorded 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.
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.
Online map: In London, you can also explore some of the capital's elm heritage by following a short tour of some of central London's elms with the mobile-friendly website An elm adventure from Somerset House to "Albertopolis".
Activity sheets: One-page sheets aimed at Key Stage 2 classes are available that give information and activity ideas on how elms are used by humans, in nature, and literature and art. Registered participants can also login to their Profile and visit the Elm Lab for more ideas.
Where can I source elms?
The public planting phase of The Great British Elm Experiment has ended and we are no longer able to supply elm trees, with only small trial plantings continuing.
Various nurseries can supply the native wych elm (Ulmus glabra), such as Alba Trees. Non-native but resistant elms are available from suppliers including Hillier Trees. You may also want to browse the back of this report by Butterfly Conservation of resistant elm suppliers. The Resistant Elms website may also be able to help provide resistant cultivars.