There are 3 species of elm growing in Britain: Wych, English and Field. Wych Elm is the only truly native elm, whilst the other two were introduced by our ancestors. Elm was once a common tree, standing tall in the landscape at up to 120 feet. It has smooth grey bark, over time becoming grey-brown with fissures. Small red flowers appear in spring, forming winged seeds called ‘samaras’ after pollination by the wind. Dutch elm disease, caused by a strain of sac fungi spread by the elm bark beetle, wiped out 90% of British elms. White-letter hairstreak butterflies have suffered along with the elm’s decline, elm leaves being the main food supply for their caterpillars. Dutch elm disease is not new, and despite the last bout being the worst on record, elm has managed to recover. Pollen records show that elm trees have previously declined suddenly in history and have then returned.
Elm wood is strong and flexible. It is resistant to splitting and decay and lasts well in wet conditions. Early water pipes were made from elm wood, and in 1930 elm water pipes were uncovered in London that had been in use since 1613.
In Celtic mythology, the elm tree is associated with the Underworld, said to grow close to passageways that lead out of our Earthly realm, and into the Underworld.
Status at Cambrian Wildwood: Absent, although we hope to reintroduce in the future.