Thursday, 26 February 2009

Dutch Elm Disease

These are some of the saddest pictures I have ever taken.

In the 1970s Dutch Elm Disease hit Britain and wiped out all our Elm trees. Not only were they an important part of our countryside and hedgerows but they could be found in parks and roads throughout our towns and cities. The disease wiped out 25 million of Britain’s trees. This row of Wheatley Elms was alongside a golf course and no sooner had one died than the rest all followed suit.

In 1981 we went on holiday to a farmhouse in the Midlands. At one time it had been surrounded by trees but this was the only one left – all the rest were stumps and this one was about to be taken down.

Nowadays the famous ‘tweety-pie’ shape of the English Elm is only to be found in old paintings.


  1. That is sad, and I'm sorry for your loss remembered. Visiting Colorado over the last 5 to 10 years I've seen damage caused by burrowing beetles, but for the whole nation to lose a source of its natural beauty is sad.

    Updates? Replanting? Reforestation efforts?

  2. I remember this awful tree killer from my years in Colorado. This horrible disease killed many of our trees through the years. It is a sad thing to witness.

  3. Yes Don, in a way I should have been more positive and pointed put that many of the town ones were replaced but regrettably a lot were not. They were mostly replaced with alien species that grew not too tall and looked rather out of place. In the countryside many of them were in the hedgerows and any attempt by the hedgerow to grow natural replacements like Oak and so on were cut down by the blades of the modern hedge trimmers.

    Elms themselves can occasionally be found as shrubs in the hedges (as at the bottom of my younger daughter's garden in Exeter) but as soon as they reach about ten foot they once again succumb to the disease. No 'cure' for the disease - a fungus carried by beetles - has yet been found.


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