Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 38

Countryside Dutch Elm Disease… A Passing Fad or Here to Stay? Contributor Tony Ridd ‘Ophiostoma ulmi’’ more commonly known as Dutch Elm Disease, named after it was identified by Dutch scientist in the early 1900’s has caused worldwide devastation for many strains of the Elm family. Here Tony Ridd, with expert knowledge from Paul Sivell, tells us what causes the disease to spread. Some readers I’m sure can remember back in the seventies when the Island was covered with majestic English Elm trees that suffered a shattering attack of Dutch Elm Disease (DED), wiping out all but a handful of our landscape trees. We can again see the destructive effects that DED is causing around the Island, with many people suffering from loss of privacy, shelter from the weather and the cost of having to pay for the trees to be taken down and removed. So why has it returned and what can we do to protect our hedges and boundaries? The English Elm along with similar family members the Smooth-leaved Elm and Wych Elm are all symbols of the English countryside and all very susceptible to DED. Evidence from prehistoric pollen analysis shows major fluctuations in the elm population, related mainly to climate change but also possibly to disease caused by the fungus ‘Ophiostoma ulmi’. English Elm very rarely, if at all reproduces from seed and clones itself by suckering. Because of this there is every chance that all of our elms have come from one tree making them susceptible to the same disease. More recently DED hit England in the 1920’s killing about 10% of our Elm population. It then went 38 Ulmus procera English Elm Island Life - www.isleofwight.net