• Name: Elm | two species of Elm can be found in Scilly.  Cornish Elm (Ulmus minor ‘stricta’) and Dutch Elm (Ulmus x hollandica) (the latter being a hybrid between Wych Elm and Smooth-leaved Elm)
  • Size: Up to 30m high
  • Life span: 100+ years  
  • Diet: Sunshine (being a plant it uses photosynthesis to produce food)
  • Reproduction: Elms reproduce by both seeds and "suckers", i.e. by growing out of the base of an existing tree, or throwing out saplings along the root network.  Elms flower and seed in Scilly in the Spring.
  • When to see: All year round (January to December)
  • Where to see: Hedgerows and wooded areas i.e. Holy Vale Nature Trail, St Mary's | along the roadside, St Agnes | Near the Sevenstones, St Martin's | Watermill in Scilly.  
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Data Deficient.  
  • Population Trend:  Mature Elms were once common on the rich, farmed soils of middle England, but are now rarely found as trees and are more common as hedgerow shrubs. This decline is a likely result of the effects of Dutch elm disease which has affected all of the UK's elms, killing many mature trees and preventing new trees from growing.
  • Threats:  Dutch Elm Disease, residential and commercial development,  
  • Fun Fact: We are incredibly lucky that. to date, Dutch Elm Disease, hasn't made it across the water to Scilly.  Consequently the rare sight of mature Elm tree woodlands and hedgerows can be seen here in Scilly!

Description:  There are two species of Elm found in Scilly; Cornish Elm (Ulmus minor ‘stricta’) and Dutch Elm (Ulmus x hollandica) (the latter being a hybrid between Wych Elm and Smooth-leaved Elm).

Growing to a height of up to 30m ,in sheltered situations (in exposed situations it is usually half the size), the 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.

The trees can be identified in early March when they produce an abundance of small purple and white flowers before coming into leaf, utilising the wind to cross pollinate.  The pollinated flowers develop later in the year into samarae, small-winged fruits often known as ‘helicopters.’  However, the fruit are rarely fertile, instead the trees readily propagate from root suckers.

The identification of Cornish Elm can be separated from Dutch Elm with practice! Cornish Elm has glossy, dark green upper leaves which are smooth to touch and curve slightly upwards from their mid-ribs, in contrast to the rough texture of the upper surface of the flattened leaves of Dutch Elm.  The trunk of Cornish Elm is relatively straight and the crown has a conical shape.  The trunk of Dutch Elm is described as tortuous and has a mushroom-shaped crown. 

Both species are important larval and food plants for Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album), a rare species on Scilly, whilst mature trees provide nest sites for the UK conservation status Amber-listed Stock Dove (Columba oenas).


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With thanks to BareFoot Photographer for the Elm Tree image