Sadly we have lost a huge number of mature elm trees over the last 60 years as Dutch Elm disease has struck England.
These are such beautiful trees and like the oak, one can only use the word “majestic”!
The elm is a deciduous tree, native to Southern and Eastern Europe and is one of the fastest-growing and largest of our trees.
Its scientific name is Ulmus minor var. vulgaris.
Though not as long-lived as the English Oak, the elm can live up to 100 years and grows to 30 metres in height.
The elm is an hermaphrodite and it’s flowers appear in February and March as dark pink or red tassels. Each flower contains both male and female parts, which are fertilised by the wind. Then tiny samaras – little winged fruits – develop and are dispersed by the wind.
Elm leaves have many serrations around their edges and are rough to the touch. They are a rich bright green colour.
You can often find elms in hedgerows, so look out for their distinctive shaped leaves amongst the more common hawthorn and hazel bushes.
Dutch elm disease has wrought havoc amongst the population of elm trees throughout Europe and unfortunately the UK didn’t escape the destruction. The disease is caused by a fungus and spread by the elm bark beetle. It has caused the death of the majority of our mature elms, especially since the 1960s, when there have been several severe outbreaks.
Elm wood has long been used for furniture making and was often used to make coffins. In the past the trees were associated with death, possibly because elms have a habit of casting off dead branches without warning!
The wood is also resistant to water because of its tight grain. Before metal was available in large quantities – and after the disastrous use of lead piping by the Romans – some English towns used pipes made of elm wood for their water mains.