Ulmus minor 'Stricta'

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Ulmus minor
Cornish Elm, Finistère, France, in 1996.
Cultivar 'Stricta'
Origin England

Ulmus minor 'Stricta', a member of the Field Elm group known as the Cornish Elm, was commonly found in South West England, Southern Ireland and Brittany until the arrival of Dutch elm disease in the late 1960s. Dr Max Coleman of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, arguing in his 2002 paper on British elms that there was no clear distinction between species and subspecies, suggested that known or suspected clones of Ulmus minor, once cultivated and named, should be treated as cultivars, preferred the designation U. minor 'Stricta'. The DNA of 'Stricta' has been investigated and the cultivar is now known to be a clone.[1]

Mature trees are now largely restricted to Australia, whither it was introduced in the 19th century.


Growing to a height of up to 27 metres (89 ft), the Cornish Elm is a slender, slow-growing deciduous tree, distinguished by its long, straight trunk, which culminates in a narrow fan-shaped crown comprising short, straight, ascending branches.[2] The leaves are small, obovate to oval, typically acuminate at the apex, 6 cm long by 3.5 cm broad, with a dark-green upper surface, glossy and smooth. The perfect apetalous wind-pollinated flowers occur in clusters of 15–20 on very short pedicels. The samarae rarely ripened in England, but when mature were very similar to those of others in the Field Elm group, being mostly obovate, 16 mm long by 10 mm broad.

Dr Oliver Rackham (1986) noted that Cornish Elms with "more spreading" crowns grow around Truro and on the Lizard Peninsula, illustrating the variety, which he called 'Lizard Elm', with a 1980 photograph.[3]

Pests and diseases[edit]

Cornish Elm is very susceptible to Dutch elm disease.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

The origin of the Cornish Elm in England remains a matter of contention; commonly assumed to have been introduced from Brittany by Man, it is also considered possible that the species may have survived the Ice Ages on lands to the south of Cornwall long since lost to the sea.[4] Without doubt, its current distribution owes much to man's activities, as it is the tree traditionally considered the best choice for providing shelter along the Cornish coast. Moreover, its timber was much prized for its strength, and commonly used in wheel and wagon construction.[5]

Few mature specimens are known to survive in the wild in England, but suckers remain a common component of hedgerows, and thus the genetic resources of this cultivar are not considered endangered.[6] A prime example is the Great Elm of Rosuic, an ancient pollard elm which attained a d.b.h. of over 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) before succumbing to disease, but is now producing suckers.[7][8] Again, like others of the species, propagation is almost entirely by suckers, which the tree produces copiously.[9][10]

Notable trees[edit]

As of 2011, the Woodland Trust lists only one verified mature Cornish Elm surviving in Cornwall, a specimen 1.89 metres (6.2 ft) in girth at Tregoose near Helston.[11] As of 2009, two specimens of Cornish Elm are reputed to survive in East Sussex at Selmeston, near the footpath across the grounds of Sherrington Manor.[12] Another specimen (height about 25 m, girth about 2 m) survives (2014) in Edinburgh, near the intersection of Douglas Crescent and Douglas Gardens.[13] A small number of mature trees, with an average d.b.h. of 143 cm, survive at Castletownbere Cemetery in County Cork, Ireland.[14] Another specimen, believed to be over a century old, exists in Shoreham, Victoria in Australia.[citation needed]


The noted botanist Ronald Melville considered Goodyer's Elm a variety of the Cornish Elm.


It has been suggested that the cultivar 'Daveyi' is a natural hybrid of Wych elm and Cornish elm.[15][16]


There are no known cultivars of this taxon, although the botanist F. J. Fontaine conjectured that the cultivar Ulmus 'Purpurea' is related to the Cornish Elm.[17] The tree is not known to be in commerce beyond Australia.


North America




  1. ^ Coleman M. (2002) 'British elms.' British Wildlife 13 (6): 390-395.
  2. ^ Diagnostic photographs of Cornish elm in St Austell (Francis Frith Collection); at Coldrenick, Menheniot (Elwes and Henry, The Trees of Britain and Ireland vol.VII, Plate 397 [after p.1933]) ; in Zelah (oldcornwall.netfirms.com).
  3. ^ Rackham, Oliver, The History of the Countryside (London, 1986), p. 236
  4. ^ White, J. & More, D. (2002). Trees of Britain & Northern Europe. Cassell's, London.
  5. ^ Elwes, H. J. & Henry, A. (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland. Vol. VII. 1848–1929. Republished 2004 Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9781108069380
  6. ^ Ipgri.cgiar.org
  7. ^ "Ancient Trees in Cornwall (third paragraph)". Cornwall Council. February 17, 2010. Retrieved May 5, 2011. Based on a chapter written by Sue Pring in 'Glorious Gardens of Cornwall' published by the Cornwall Gardens Trust. 
  8. ^ Rackham, Oliver, A History of the Countryside (London, 1986)
  9. ^ Richens, R. H. (1983). Elm. Cambridge University Press
  10. ^ Stace, C. A. (1997). New Flora of the British Isles, 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press
  11. ^ Details and photographs of Tregoose elm. Ancient-tree-hunt.org.
  12. ^ South Downs Online
  13. ^ Edinburgh 'Angustifolia' may be seen on Google Streetview, from 1 Douglas Gardens.
  14. ^ Mackenthun, G. L. (2007) The elms of Co. Cork - a survey of species, varieties and forms. Irish Forestry Vol 64, (1 & 2) 2007
  15. ^ http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=13849
  16. ^ Archie Miles, Hidden Trees of Britain, Ebury Press, 2007, p.17
  17. ^ F. J. Fontaine, Dendroflora No., (1968).
  18. ^ Brighton-Hove.gov.uk
  19. ^ Cambridge Botanic Garden
  20. ^ Spencer, R., Hawker, J. and Lumley, P. (1991). Elms in Australia. Australia: Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. ISBN 0-7241-9962-4. 
  21. ^ EstablishedTrees.com.au