Ulmus minor 'Sarniensis'

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Ulmus minor 'Sarniensis'
RN Ulmus minor Sarniensis (oud zuid amsterdam).JPG
Guernsey Elms, Amsterdam
SpeciesUlmus minor
OriginGuernsey, or Brittany

The Field Elm cultivar Ulmus minor 'Sarniensis', known variously as Guernsey Elm, Jersey Elm,[1] Wheatley Elm,[2][3] or Southampton Elm,[4] was first described by MacCulloch in 1815 from trees on Guernsey,[5] and was planted in the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens in the 1820s.[3] It was listed in the Loddiges catalogue of 1836 as Ulmus sarniensis and by Loudon in Hortus lignosus londinensis (1838) as U. campestris var. sarniensis.[6][7] The origin of the tree remains obscure; Richens believed it "a mutant of a French population of Field elm", noting that "elms of similar leaf-form occur in Cotentin and in northern Brittany. They vary much in habit but some have a tendency to pyramidal growth. Whether the distinctive habit first developed on the mainland or in Guernsey is uncertain."[8]

Melville, believing the cultivar a hybrid between Cornish Elm U. minor 'Stricta' and Dutch Elm Ulmus × hollandica, adopted the name U. × sarniensis (Loud.) Bancroft.[9][10] Its clonal origin is (to date) suspected rather than proved, but the apparent uniformity of this taxon makes it likely to be a clone. A number of specimens in northern Britain were DNA-tested in 2013 by Forest Research, Roslin, Midlothian, and were found to be the same clone.[11] Arguing in a 2002 paper that there was no clear distinction between species and subspecies, and suggesting that known or suspected clones of U. minor, once cultivated and named, should be treated as cultivars, Dr Max Coleman of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh preferred the designation U. minor 'Sarniensis'.[12]

Guernsey Elm was often misnamed 'Cornish Elm' in the UK by the local authorities who planted it extensively.[13][3] It was sometimes confused in continental Europe with the similar 'Monumentalis'.[14][15] ('Sarniensis' is known as monumentaaliep [:monumental elm] in The Netherlands.[16][17])


The tree has a compact, columnar form, not dissimilar to the Lombardy Poplar. Rarely exceeding a height of 27 m, the tree has long stiff ascending branches forming a narrow pyramidal crown.[18][19] Older specimens broaden round the 'waist', giving trees with a tapering crown a Chianti-flask shape. Like Cornish elm, a narrow-crowned elm from the same area, Guernsey elm is one of the last British trees to come into leaf, and it retains its dark, lustrous foliage into early winter. In favourable conditions it turns a rich golden-yellow in late November or early December.[20] The small leaves and samarae are similar to those of the Field Elm group in general. Like others of the group, the tree suckers very freely, though it is often base-grafted on wych elm to prevent suckering. The tree often develops highly distinctive cancerous burls on its branches or trunk.

Pests and diseases[edit]

Guernsey Elm is very susceptible to Dutch elm disease.


With its light, upcurving branches, Guernsey Elm never became a danger, unlike English Elm, which sometimes shed heavy lateral boughs. This fact, and its compact form, made it ideal for street planting. The tree was popular in Britain, where it was widely cultivated. Dutch elm disease has, however, now destroyed nearly all the mature trees in England save a few in Brighton, Bridlington, Peasholm Park, Scarborough and a single tree in Skegness. Around a hundred mature specimens still survive in Edinburgh, Scotland (2013). It was introduced to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight by Albert the Prince Consort, where it survives today as suckers along the lane leading to Barton Manor Farm. Guernsey Elm was also planted in large numbers across Amsterdam, but eventually replaced by the similarly fastigiate but much more disease-resistant clone, 'Columella'.[21][22]

One tree, supplied by the Späth nursery,[23] was planted in 1897 as U. campestris sarniensis at the Dominion Arboretum, Ottawa, Canada.[24] 'Sarniensis' was introduced to the United States, featuring in the 1904 catalogue of Frederick W. Kelsey as Ulmus Wheatlyi.[25] In the catalogue of the Plumfield Nursery of Fremont, Nebraska, 1934, its origin was given as Holland. It was described as "a round-headed tree with small glossy leaves, [which] hybridized with American White Elm" (:Ulmus americana), a crossing that would seem unlikely given the ploidy differences.[26] 'Sarniensis' remains in cultivation in the Morton Arboretum.[27] The Ulmus monumentalis introduced to Australia in 1873 is thought to have been 'Sarniensis'.[28]

The dark cones of Guernsey Elm dominate Edinburgh's Princes Street Garden (2009)

Notable trees[edit]

Elwes considered the Richmond public gardens 'Wheatley', c.90  ft. tall, the finest he had seen.[4] Among the largest surviving specimens of Guernsey Elm in the UK are one in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh (2017), bole-girth 3 m, and the one in Preston Park, Brighton. The latter is 34 m tall with a trunk 115 cm d.b.h. (diameter at breast height) in 2006, part of a line of trees averaging 30 m in height planted circa 1880. The tallest on record in the UK stands on Paradise Drive, Eastbourne and had a height of 36 m in 2007.

In North America, the tree lines West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.[29]


The tree is named for the Channel Island of Guernsey (Sarnia was the Roman name for Guernsey), where it may have originated. A similar tree is found along the Brittany coast, referred to in several 18th and 19th century French treatises as l'Orme male [30][31] owing to its phallic resemblance; it is still sometimes referred to as the Male Elm in Guernsey, although no mature trees survive there either. The synonym Wheatley Elm was derived from a tree planted at Wheatley Park, Doncaster, where it was introduced and propagated by Sir William Cooke in the early 19th century.[2][3] The earliest known use of the name Wheatley Elm occurs in the 1869 catalogue of Simon-Louis, Metz.[32][4] The tree was also raised in great numbers at the Rogers nursery in Southampton in the late 1800s,[4] which probably explains the synonym Southampton Elm. Although the tree is also known as the Jersey Elm, its introduction from Guernsey has been clearly chronicled. Wilkinson (1978) mentions that some botanists distinguished between 'var. wheatleyi' and 'Jersey Elm', presumably the result of slight mutations in the course of repeated propagation.[33]


Some authorities consider 'Dickson's Golden Elm' a form of Guernsey Elm. The nursery Messieurs Otin père et fils of Saint-Étienne sold an Ulmus Wheatleyi aurea pyramidalis, with leaves marbled yellow, in 1882.[35]


North America



North America

None known.



  1. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. ^ a b Howes, C. A. (2002). The Wheatley Elm: Is it part of Yorkshire's arboricultural heritage? Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery, unpublished paper.
  3. ^ a b c d Howes, C. A. (2007). Seaward, M. R. D. (ed.). "The Wheatley elm: A fading part of Yorkshire's arbocultural heritage?". The Naturalist. 132 (1060): 63–66.
  4. ^ a b c d Elwes, Henry John; Henry, Augustine (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland. 7. pp. 1891–1892.
  5. ^ Quayle, Thomas (1815). General View of the Agriculture and Present State of the Islands on the Coast of Normandy, Subject to the Crown of Great Britain. Sherwood, Neely & Jones. pp. 271–272. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  6. ^ Loudon, J. C., Hortus lignosus londinensis (London 1838), p.92-4
  7. ^ Richens, R. H., Elm (Cambridge, 1983), p.54
  8. ^ Richens, R. H., Elm (Cambridge, 1983),  p.54,  p.96
  9. ^ Green, Peter Shaw (1964). "Registration of cultivar names in Ulmus". Arnoldia. 24 (6–8): 41–80. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  10. ^ beanstreesandshrubs.org
  11. ^ A’Hara, Stuart; Cottrell, Joan (2013). "More on the Wheatley elm" (PDF). Ecotype. Autumn: 3. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  12. ^ Coleman M. (2002) 'British elms.' British Wildlife 13 (6): 390–395.
  13. ^ Mitchell, A. (1996) The Trees of Britain (London)
  14. ^ Henry John Elwes & Augustine Henry, (1913), The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland, Vol.7, p.1891
  15. ^ F. J., Fontaine (1968). "Ulmus". Dendroflora. 5: 37–55. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  16. ^ Amsterdamse Iepen, bomeninfo.nl
  17. ^ Trees in The Netherlands labelled 'Monumentalis', with 'Sarniensis' to the right; Nationaal Archief, www.gahetna.nl
  18. ^ McClintock, D. (1975). The Wild Flowers of Guernsey. Collins, London.
  19. ^ White, J. & More, D. (2002). Trees of Britain & Northern Europe. Cassell's, London.
  20. ^ Reeves, Karen (2012-10-05). "Edinburgh's trees with a story - Braidburn Valley Park - Wheatley Elms". The City of Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 2017-02-14.
  21. ^ amsterdambomen.nl[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ 'Sarniensis', Titiaanstraat, Amsterdam, bomeninfo.nl
  23. ^ Katalog (PDF). 108. Berlin, Germany: L. Späth Baumschulenweg. 1902–1903. pp. 132–133.
  24. ^ Saunders, William; Macoun, William Tyrrell (1899). Catalogue of the trees and shrubs in the arboretum and botanic gardens at the central experimental farm (2 ed.). pp. 74–75.
  25. ^ General catalogue, 1904 : choice hardy trees, shrubs, evergreens, roses, herbaceous plants, fruits, etc. New York: Frederick W. Kelsey. 1904. p. 18.
  26. ^ Moffet, L. A. The Plumfield Nurseries, Bulletin No. 2, March 7, 1934. Plumfield Nurseries, Fremont, Nebraska.
  27. ^ cirrusimage.com
  28. ^ Brookes, Margaret, & Barley, Richard, Plants listed in nursery catalogues in Victoria, 1855-1889 (Ornamental Plant Collection Association, South Yarra, Victoria, 1992), p.303–304
  29. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  30. ^ Chailland, M. (1769). Dictionnaire raisonné des eaux et forets. Paris.
  31. ^ Deterville, P. (1809). Nouveau cours complet d'agriculture théorique et pratique ou Dictionnaire raisonné et universel d'agriculture. 9. Paris. p. 284. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  32. ^ Simon-Louis Catalogue, Metz, 1869, p. 97
  33. ^ Wilkinson, Gerald, Epitaph for the Elm (London, 1978), p.71
  34. ^ Onze Tuinen, December 1912
  35. ^ André, Édouard (1882). "Exposition de l'association horticole lyonnaise". Revue Horticole: 436. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  36. ^ "List of plants in the {elm} collection". Brighton & Hove City Council. Retrieved 23 September 2016.

External links[edit]