Ulmus minor 'Atinia'
English Elm, Preston Park, Brighton, UK.
Ulmus minor 'Atinia', commonly known as the English Elm or more lately the Atinian Elm was, before the advent of Dutch elm disease, the commonest field elm in central southern England, though not native there, and one of the largest and fastest-growing deciduous trees in Europe. R. H. Richens noted that there are elm-populations in north-west Spain, in northern Portugal and on the Mediterranean coast of France that "closely resemble the English Elm" and appear to be "trees of long standing" in those regions rather than recent introductions. Augustine Henry had earlier noted that the supposed English Elms planted extensively in the Royal Park at Aranjuez from the late 16th century onwards, specimens said to have been introduced from England by Philip II and "differing in no respects from the English Elm in England", behaved as native trees in Spain. He suggested that the tree "may be a true native of Spain, indigenous in the alluvial plains of the great rivers, now almost completely deforested".
Richens believed that English Elm was a particular clone of the variable species Ulmus minor, referring to it as Ulmus minor var. vulgaris. A 2004 survey of genetic diversity in Spain, Italy and the UK confirmed that English Elms are indeed genetically identical, clones of a single tree, said to be Columella's 'Atinian Elm', once widely used for training vines, and assumed to have been brought to the British Isles by Romans for that purpose. Thus, despite its name, the origin of the tree is widely believed to be Italy, though the clone is no longer found there and has not yet been identified further east.
Dr Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh writes (2009): "The advent of DNA fingerprinting has shed considerable light on the question. A number of studies have now shown that the distinctive forms that Melville elevated to species and Richens lumped together as field elm are single clones, all genetically identical, that have been propagated by vegetative means such as cuttings or root suckers. This means that enigmatic British elms such as ... English Elm have turned out to be single clones of field elm." Most current taxonomies, however, do not list English Elm as a variety of Ulmus minor.
- 1 Synonyms
- 2 Description
- 3 Pests and diseases
- 4 Uses
- 5 Cultivation
- 6 Notable trees
- 7 Cultivars
- 8 Hybrids and hybrid cultivars
- 9 The English Elm in art and photography
- 10 Accessions
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
- Ulmus atinia Walker
- Ulmus campestris L., Loudon, Planch., Moss
- Ulmus minor var. vulgaris Richens
- Ulmus procera Salisb.
- Ulmus sativa Mill.
- Ulmus suberosa Smith, Loudon, Lindley
- Ulmus surculosa Stokes var. latifolia Stokes, Ley
The tree often exceeded 40 m in height with a trunk < 2 m d.b.h. The largest specimen ever recorded in England, at Forthampton Court, near Tewkesbury, was 46 m tall. While the upper branches form a fan-shaped crown, heavy more horizontal boughs low on the bole often give the tree a distinctive 'figure-of-eight' silhouette. The small, reddish-purple hermaphrodite apetalous flowers appear in early spring before the leaves. The leaves are dark green, almost orbicular, < 10 cm long, without the pronounced acuminate tip at the apex typical of the genus. They flush a lighter green in April, about a month earlier than most Field Elm. Since the tree does not produce long shoots in the canopy, it does not develop the markedly pendulous habit of some Field Elm. The bark of old trees is scaly, unlike the vertically-furrowed bark of ancient Field Elm. The bark of English Elm suckers, like that of Dutch Elm suckers and of some Field Elm, can be corky, but Dutch Elm suckers may be distinguished from English by their straighter, stouter twigs, bolder 'herringbone' pattern, and later flushing.
The tree does not produce fertile seed as it is female-sterile, and natural regeneration is entirely by root suckers. Seed production in England was often unknown in any case. By the late 19th century, urban specimens in Britain were often grafted on to wych elm root-stock to eliminate suckering; Henry noted that this method of propagation seldom produced good specimens.
Cricket under English Elms, Rugby School (1907)
St Peter's Church, Preston Village, Brighton, with English Elms regrowing after lopping (1951) (Photo: Les Whitcomb)
Pests and diseases
Owing to its homogeneity, the tree has proven particularly susceptible to Dutch elm disease, but immature trees remain a common feature in the English countryside courtesy of the ability to sucker from roots. After about 20 years, these suckers too become infected by the fungus and killed back to ground level. English Elm was the first elm to be genetically engineered to resist disease, at the University of Abertay Dundee. It was an ideal subject for such an experiment, as its sterility meant there was no danger of its introgression into the countryside.
The leaves of the English Elm in the UK are mined by Stigmella ulmivora.
... He liked to be alone, feeling his soul heavy with its own fate. He would sit for hours watching the elm trees standing in rows like giants, like warriors across the country. The Earl had told him that the Romans had brought these elms to Britain. And he seemed to see the spirit of the Romans in them still. Sitting there alone in the spring sunshine, in the solitude of the roof, he saw the glamour of this England of hedgerows and elm trees, and the labourers with slow horses slowly drilling the sod, crossing the brown furrow, and the chequer of fields away to the distance.
|– From D. H. Lawrence, The Ladybird (1923).|
The English Elm was once valued for many purposes, notably as water pipes from hollowed trunks, owing to its resistance to rot in saturated conditions. It is also very resilient to crushing damage and these two properties led to its widespread use in the construction of jetties, timber piers and lock gates, etc. It was used to a degree in furniture manufacture but not to the same extent as oak, because of its greater tendency to shrink, swell and split, which also rendered it unsuitable as the major timber component in shipbuilding and building construction. The wood has a density of around 560 kg per cubic metre.
However, English Elm is chiefly remembered today for its aesthetic contribution to the English countryside. In 1913 Henry Elwes wrote that "Its true value as a landscape tree may be best estimated by looking down from an eminence in almost any part of the valley of the Thames, or of the Severn below Worcester, during the latter half of November, when the bright golden colour of the lines of elms in the hedgerows is one of the most striking scenes that England can produce".
The introduction of the Atinian elm to Spain from Italy is recorded by the Roman agronomist Columella. Although there is no record of its introduction to Britain from Spain, it has long been believed that the tree arrived with the Romans, a hypothesis supported by the discovery of pollen in an excavated Roman vineyard. It is likely the tree was used also as a source of leaf hay. Elms said to be English Elm, and reputedly brought to Spain from England by Philip II, were planted extensively in the Royal Park at Aranjuez and the Retiro Park, Madrid from the late 16th century onwards (see Hybrids below). English Elm has also been identified as the elm grown in the vineyards of the Valais, or Wallis, canton of Switzerland.
More than a thousand years after the departure of the Romans from Britain, English Elm found far greater popularity, as the preferred tree for planting in the new Hawthorn hedgerows appearing as a consequence of the Enclosure movement, which lasted from 1550 to 1850. In parts of the Severn Valley, the tree occurred at densities of over 1000 per square kilometre, so prolific as to have been known as the 'Worcester Weed'. In the eastern counties of England, however, hedgerows were usually planted with local Field Elm, or with suckering hybrids. When elm became the tree of fashion in the 18th and 19th centuries, avenues and groves of English Elm were often planted, among them the Grand Avenue at Stowe House and the elm-groves in The Backs, Cambridge.
English Elm was introduced into Ireland, and as a consequence of Empire has been cultivated in eastern North America and widely in south-eastern Australia and New Zealand. It is still commonly found in Australia and New Zealand, where it is regarded at its best as a street or avenue tree. It was also planted as a street tree on the American West Coast, notably in St Helena, California, and it has been planted in South Africa.
Mature English Elms are now only very rarely found in the UK beyond Brighton (see below) and the Isle of Man. One large tree survives in Leicester in Cossington Street Recreation Ground. Several survive in Edinburgh (2014): one in Rosebank Cemetery (girth 3 metres), one in Founders Avenue, Fettes College, and one each in Inverleith Park (east avenue) and on Easter Warriston Green. A majestic open-grown specimen (girth 3 metres) in Claremont Park, Leith Links, Edinburgh, retains the dense fan-vaulted crown iconic in the species. There is an isolated mature English Elm in the cemetery at Dervaig, Isle of Mull, Scotland.
Some of the most significant remaining stands are to be found overseas, notably in Australia where they line the streets of Melbourne, protected by geography and quarantine from disease. An avenue of 87 English Elms, planted c.1880, lines the entrance to the winery of All Saints Estate, Rutherglen, Victoria; a double avenue of 400 English Elms, planted in 1897 and 1910-15, lines Royal Parade, Parkville, Melbourne. A large free-standing English Elm in Traralgon, Victoria, shows the 'un-English' growth-form of the tree in tropical lattitudes. However, many of the Australian trees, now over 100 years old, are succumbing to old age, and are being replaced with new trees raised by material from the older trees budded onto Wych Elm Ulmus glabra rootstock. A "massive individual" stands at 36 Mt Albert Road, Auckland, New Zealand. In the USA, several fine trees survive in New York City, notably the Hangman's Elm in Washington Square Park, while in Canada four 130-year English Elms, inoculated against disease, survive on the Back Campus field of the University of Toronto.
English Elms on Royal Parade, Parkville, Melbourne
Brighton and the 'cordon sanitaire'
Although the English Elm population in Britain was almost entirely destroyed by Dutch elm disease, mature trees can still be found along the south coast Dutch Elm Disease Management Area in East Sussex. This 'cordon sanitaire', aided by the prevailing south westerly onshore winds and the topographical niche formed by the South Downs, has saved many mature elms. Amongst these are possibly the world's oldest surviving English Elms, known as the 'Preston Twins' in Preston Park, both with trunks exceeding 600 cm in circumference (2.0 m d.b.h.).
There has been a small number of putative cultivars raised since the early 19th century, three of which have now almost certainly been lost to cultivation: Acutifolia, Argenteo-Variegata, Folia Aurea, Pyramidalis. Though usually listed as one of its cultivars, Ulmus Louis van Houtte "cannot with any certainty be referred to as Ulmus procera" (W. J. Bean).
Hybrids and hybrid cultivars
Crossability experiments conducted at the Arnold Arboretum in the 1970s apparently succeeded in hybridizing the species with U. glabra and U. rubra, both also protogynous species. However, the same experiments also shewed the species to be self-compatible which, in the light of its proven female-sterility, must cast doubt on the identity of the specimens used. A similar doubt must hang over Henry's observation that the 'English Elms' at Aranjuez (see Cultivation above) "produced every year fertile seed in great abundance", seed said to have been taken "all over Europe", presumably in the hope that it would grow into trees like the royal elms of Spain. Given that English Elm is female-sterile, the Aranjuez elms either were not after all English Elm, or, by the time Henry collected seed from them, English Elms there had been replaced by other kinds. English elm, though female-sterile, should be capable of acting as a male pollen parent. At higher altitudes in Spain, Henry noted, such as in Madrid and Toledo, the 'English Elm' did not set fertile seed.
The English Elm in art and photography
The elms in the Suffolk landscape-paintings and drawings of John Constable were not English Elm but "most probably East Anglian hybrid elms ... such as still grow in the same hedges" in Dedham Vale, Flatford and East Bergholt. Constable's Study of an elm tree (c.1821) is, however, thought to depict the bole of an English Elm with its bark "cracked into parched-earth patterns". Among artists who depicted English Elms were Edward Seago and James Duffield Harding. English Elm features in oil paintings by the contemporary artist David Shepherd, either as the main subject (Majestic elms ) or more often as the background to nostalgic evocations of farming scenes.
Among classic photographs of English Elm are those by Edward Step and Henry Irving in Wayside and Woodland Trees, A pocket guide to the British sylva (1904).
- Brighton & Hove City Council, NCCPG Elm Collection. UK champion: Preston Park, 15 m high (storm damaged), 201 cm d.b.h. in 2001. Brighton & Hove has some 700 trees; the most notable examples are at Preston Park, South Victoria Gardens, Royal Pavilion Gardens, The Level, Holmes Avenue, University of Sussex Campus; Preston Road (A23) and Hanover Crescent.
- Grange Farm Arboretum, Sutton St James, Spalding, Lincolnshire, UK. Acc. no. 518.
- Strona Arboretum, University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland. No details available.
- University of Copenhagen, Botanic Garden. One specimen, no details available.
- Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury, Glos., UK. Four trees, listed as U. minor var. vulgaris; no acc. details available.
- Avenue of Honour, Ballarat, Australia. Details not known.
- Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Gisborne, New Zealand. 12 trees, details not known.
- Waite Arboretum, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia. No details available.
- City of Melbourne: several fine trees around the Fitzroy Gardens and Royal Parade. Can be viewed on Street View, Google Maps.
- Taralga, New South Wales: a windbreak of Ulmus procera shelters St Luke's Rectory, on a hill overlooking the village, and subject to high wind. As of 2012, all the trees appear to have survived ten years of acute drought, having lost many large branches.
- Adams, K., 'A Reappraisal of British Elms based on DNA Evidence' (2006), 
- Richens, R. H., Elm (Cambridge, 1983), p.18, p.90
- Specimen of tree labelled U. procera in Portugal, icnf.pt 
- Richens, R. H., Elm (Cambridge, 1983), p.276
- Elwes, H. J. & Henry, A. (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland. Vol. VII. 1848–1929. Republished 2004 Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9781108069380
- Richens, R. H., Elm, Cambridge University Press, 1983 
- Gil, L et al, (2004) English Elm is a 2,000-year-old Roman Clone. Nature 431. 1053.
- Tree News, Spring/Summer 2005,Publisher Felix Press
- Gil, L., Fuentes-Utrilla, P., Soto, A., Cervera, M.T., Collada, C. (2004) English elm is a 2,000-year-old Roman clone; Nature, vol. 431, p. 1053. Nature Publishing Group, London.
- "English elm 'brought by Romans'". BBC. 2004-10-28. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Heybroek, Hans M, 'The elm, tree of milk and wine' (2013), sisef.it/iforest/contents/?id=ifor1244-007
- Max Coleman, ed.: Wych Elm (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh publication, 2009; ISBN 978-1-906129-21-7); p. 22
- Bean, W. J. (1981). Trees and shrubs hardy in Great Britain. Murray, London.
- Stace, C. A. (1997). New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press.
- White, J. & More, D. (2002). Trees of Britain & Northern Europe. Cassell, London
- Hanson, M. W. (1990). Essex Elm. Essex Naturalist, 10. Essex Field Club, 1990.
- Elwes, H. J., & Henry, A., The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland (Private publication, Edinburgh, 1913), Vol. VII, p.1909
- Meek, James (2001-08-28). "Scientists modify elm to resist disease that killed millions of trees in Britain". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-26.
- Miller, F., Ware, G. and Jackson, J. (2001). Preference of Temperate Chinese Elms (Ulmuss spp.) for the Feeding of the Japanese Beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 94 (2). pp 445-448. 2001. Entom. Soc.of America.
- D. H. Lawrence, The Ladybird (Penguin edition, 1960, p.69)
- Elm. Niche Timbers. Accessed 19-08-2009.
- Photographs of English Elms on the Backs in 101 Views of Cambridge, Rock Bros Ltd, c.1900
- Columella, Lucius Junius Moderadus (c.A D 50) De re rustica, v.6
- Loudon, John Claudius, Arboretum et fruticetum Britannicum; or, The trees and shrubs of Britain, Vol. 3 (1838)
- Elwes, H. J., & Henry, A., The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland (Private publication, Edinburgh, 1913), Vol. VII, p.1908
- Richens, R. H., Elm (Cambridge, 1983), p.276
- Wilkinson, G. (1984). Trees in the Wild and Other Trees and Shrubs. Stephen Hope Books. ISBN 0-903792-05-2.
- Richens, R. H., Elm (Cambridge, 1983), Ch.14
- Elwes, H. J. & Henry, A. (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland, Vol.7, p.1920 
- Auckland Botanical Society (2003). Journal Vol. 58 (1), June 2003. ISSN 0113-41332
- Lefoe, Gregory K., 'Elm Trees', emelbourne.net.au
- Victorian Heritage Database, 
- Dreistadt, S, Dahlsten, D. L., and Frankie, G. W. (1990). Urban Forests and Insect Ecology. BioScience. Vol. 40, No. 3 (March 1990). pp. 192 - 198. University of California Press.
- Troup, R. S. (1932). Exotic forest trees in the British Empire. Oxford Clarendon Press. ASIN: B0018EQG9G
- Spencer, R., Hawker, J. and Lumley, P. (1991). Elms in Australia. Australia: Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. ISBN 0-7241-9962-4
- Photograph of English Elm in Melbourne, 2.bp.blogspot.com 
- English Elm avenue, All Saints Estate, Rutherglen, allsaintswine.com.au , rutherglenvic.com , 2bustickets.blogspot.co.uk  l
- English Elm in Melbourne, emelbourne.net.au , gardendrum.com 
- English Elm in Victoria, Victorian Heritage Database, procera:1 procera:2
- English Elms on Royal Parade, Melbourne, flickr.com 
- English Elm in Traralgon, Victoria, vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au  
- 'The growth and ultimate form of English Elm', resistantelms.co.uk 
- Fitzgibbon, J. (2006) Royal Parade Elm Replacement. Elmwatch, Vol. 16 No. 1, March 2006
- Wilcox, Mike, & Inglis, Chris, 'Auckland's Elms', bts.nzpcn.org.nz 
- English Elm in Central Park, New York, centralpark-ny.com 
- Barnard, E. S. (2002). New York City Trees. Columbia University Press
- Photograph of English Elms in University of Toronto: Janet Harrison, nativeplantwildlifegarden.com 
- Clouston, B., Stansfield, K., eds., After the Elm (London, 1979), p.55
- The Conservation Foundation's Great British Elm Experiment map of parent trees: 
- Green, P. S. (1964). Registration of cultivar names in Ulmus. Arnoldia, Vol. 24. Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. 
- Hans, A. S. (1981). Compatibility and Crossability Studies in Ulmus. Silvae Genetica 30, 4 - 5 (1981).
- Elwes, H. J. & Henry, A. (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland, Vol.7, p.1908 
- Wilkinson, Gerald, Epitaph for the Elm (London, 1978), p.115
- Elwes, H. J. & Henry, A. (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland, Vol.7, p.1908
- R. H. Richens, Elm, p.166, 179
- 'Elm' by Robert Macfarlane, vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/memory-maps-elm-by-robert-macfarlane/
- Edward Seago, Elm Trees near Cookham, telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/8571179/Last-chance-to-save-the-surviving-English-elms.html
- English Elm in David Shepherd landscapes, davidshepherd.com/davidshepherd-farm.html
- Step, Edward, Wayside and Woodland Trees, Plate 36, gutenberg.org/files/34740/34740-h/34740-h.htm
- "National Elm Collection annual report - Brighton & Hove City Council". Brighton-hove.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
- Johnson, Owen (ed.) (2003). Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland. Whittet Press, ISBN 978-1-873580-61-5.
- [dead link]
- "Waite Arboretum | Waite Arboretum". Waite.adelaide.edu.au. 2003-01-21. Retrieved 2012-11-02.