Elm Trees on Barnes Common

There are a number of stands of Elm on the Common with the largest along Rocks Lane. Many are currently in a poor state due to Dutch elm disease. This is caused by a fungus Ophiostoma novi-ulmi that is carried either via root connections from tree to tree or by the Large Elm Beetle (Scolytus scolytus). Elm regrowth usually becomes infected at about twelve years when it reaches five to ten metres tall.

The tree is associated with high numbers of lichens, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which is known to like regenerating elm and of particular relevance to the Common, the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly of which there does appear to be a reasonable population.

To discourage breeding by the beetle and further transmittance of the disease, FoBC has been gradually removing the dead and dying trees, hence you may see a number of heaps of felled trees on the Common that are awaiting the chipper.

However in Spring 2016, FoBC joined The Great British Elm experiment. This is a project where cuttings have been taken from mature trees from around the UK that appear to have resisted the disease.  Whether these trees have genuine resistance or have just been lucky, no one is sure but the cuttings have been micro-propagated to produce new saplings of which 2,000 have been distributed to schools, community groups and local authorities.

FoBC planted a dozen of these saplings in Spring 2016 so we will just have to see how they get on but height, girth, wildlife, signs of disease and other data will all be recorded for the experiment.