Are you someone who believes that all our elms have disappeared? That may be a popular opinion, but there could be more healthy elms in parks, gardens and our countryside than we think. The Conservation Foundation, which has been working with elm trees for over 30 years, has set up a new interactive map to understand the state of Britain's elm population, and support researchers and enthusiasts to identify surviving elms across the UK.
Featured in art, music and poetry the elm has a rich heritage and now modern technology is bringing a new chapter to the Great British Elm.
With the arrival of spring and the distinctive bunches of bright green seed clumps that make elm trees instantly recognisable, The Conservation Foundation is calling on the British public to become elm detectives. They are invited to join the search for the UK's elms, many of which grow unrecognised in our towns and countryside, and to record them on the new crowd-sourced map at www.conservationfoundation.co.uk/elms/map
The elm map is populated so far with almost 150 elms identified by experts and enthusiasts the Foundation has been working with for more than three decades.
Far from losing all but a very few of its magnificent elm population to Dutch elm disease in the 1970s, The Conservation Foundation believes the UK still has a large number of mature elms. With the help of the country's citizen-scientists it hopes to discover the current state of Britain's elm population and support Dutch elm disease researchers.
Elm sightings can be logged by uploading photographs of the tree with its location and as much other information as possible, including pictures of the shape and bark. When the leaves come through later in the season, the elm detectives are asked to add a photograph to their online record for the expert panel to identify the species.
Postings are being moderated by a number of elm experts and researchers who will identify the species, including Peter Bourne supported the National Elm Collection in Brighton.
Elms have been part of The Conservation Foundation's history and an elm planting ceremony in October 1979 in Harlow, Essex led David Shreeve and David Bellamy to launch the charity in 1982. Over the years since thousands of elms have been planted, including a disease resistant Sapporo Autumn Gold planted by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in Windsor Great Park, where it still flourishes.
Most recently the Great British Elm Experiment has led to some 3000 plantings of elms micro propagated from mature parent trees in schools and communities around the UK and has engaged and interested a new generation in this much loved tree, which has been so much part of British culture over centuries.
The Conservation Foundation director David Shreeve explains: "Our Foundation grew out of an elm project over 30 years ago and since then we have undertaken a number of initiatives to show that, despite the huge loss of elms due to disease and development, they are still very much around. Thanks to a number of enthusiasts who keep alive an interest in native and new elms and the biodiversity elm trees support, they are ensuring that elms are not a just tree of the past only featuring in memories, poetry and paintings. Now, with modern technology, anyone will be able to see just where the UK's elms are and hopefully, as a result, even more healthy, mature trees will be discovered and added to our map."
Sir Harry Studholme, chair of the Forestry Commission and an elm enthusiast, adds: "Elms for centuries gave character to the English landscape. The experience of increasing incidences of tree disease in other species over the last few years has given even greater importance to understanding the resource we have left, how we can protect it and even how we might expand it for future generations."
The Conservation Foundation Great British Elm Search map is supported by The Tanner Trust, The Berkeley Reafforestation Trust and private individuals.