The Plumpton elm experiment
Plumpton has its very own disease-resistant (we hope) elm tree, thanks to the Conservation Foundation’s Great British Elm Experiment.
This is a national programme to restore elms to the British landscape.
About 90% of British elms succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease when it hit the UK back in the 1970s. For some reason, a small number of elms proved resistant to the fungus, and survived. Cuttings have been taken from these mature parent trees and have been micro-propagated. The saplings have been distributed free to hundreds of schools, community groups, local authorities and private landowners across the UK, as part of the Great British Elm Experiment
We signed up for an elm, which duly arrived (by post) and is now flourishing in a field to the north of the village, by kind permission of a local landowner.
This is a long-term project. The Conservation Foundation wants us to monitor our tree’s progress closely over the next 15 years (some younger trees have a natural resistance to the infection but this wears off after 15–20 years). Only at this point will we know if it is going to survive.
The hope is that, with time, a new generation of disease-resistant elms will become established throughout the country. The project also heralds hope for the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly, for which elm is the sole food plant.
Visit the Conservation Foundation website for more information about the project and a map showing where all the elms have been planted.