Wych Elm: A Rare Discovery

I felt lucky to come across quite a rare sight at a client’s property recently, when I identified a tree that I have not seen anywhere else where I have worked in Halifax, since I started out as a gardener many years ago:

Ulmus glabra, or more commonly known as the Wych Elm.

It is well known that there are very few mature Elm trees left in England after the devastating effects of Dutch Elm disease, which has killed millions of trees since the 1920’s.
It would seem by looking at this particular specimen, and hazarding a guess, that it may have been felled in the past to allow for the boundary wall to be built, and then it has managed to grow a new crown from the base at ground level. Elms do manage to successfully rejuvenate from pollarding and coppicing.
It has previously been pruned lightly by others, before I was hired here as the gardener, with nobody ever knowing what the tree was, however I was able to, by looking at the key indentifying features, which are the asymmetrical base of the leaves, which on Wych Elm are simple, roughly hairy on both sides, toothed, oval or elliptical shaped with a point at the top. Below is a large, mature leaf, just before it’s about to turn to its yellow autumn colour.

Bark is slightly rough and grey when young, but when the tree is mature after a couple of decades, it becomes more brown in colour, and fissured. Another key identifying feature are the small clusters of ten to twenty red-purple flowers, in early spring, before the tree comes into leaf. It was a joy to discover this specimen and hopefully this beautiful tree will manage to stay healthy.

Learn more about Dutch Elm disease.

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