Dutch Elm disease & Ash dieback

Dutch Elm disease & Ash dieback

With us selling both Elm and Ash products we thought it would be useful to answer some common questions. What is Dutch elm disease and is it still a problem in the UK? And how does Ash dieback affect the current population of trees?

Dutch elm disease 

It was first noted in the 1920s but was then re-introduced in a more vigorous form in the 1960s. This second spread of the disease is estimated to have killed 60 million elm trees by 2010. The disease is caused by bark beetles which spread a particular fungus which then causes the lethal disease which affects native British elm trees.

The disease mainly affected central and southern England but has gradually progressed into East Anglia where we live. When we first started LayerTree we could still get English elm but now we can only get European.


Dead leaf hanging from tree

This disease makes it sound as though we have no elm trees left in the UK but actually we still have lots but they are almost all very young trees. In 1978 The conservation foundation launched 'the great British elm experiment' which is a native elm experiment for propagating saplings from healthy trees.You can check the website to see where the young saplings have been planted near you. We were surprised to see how many schools, small organisations and individuals near us were involved in this experiment. Within a few miles of our workshop are quite a number of young elm trees being monitored. If you want to help update the current records of healthy elms you can get involved on their website.

If you are interested in seeing mature Elm trees in the UK then Brighton has been able to control the spread of the disease and as a result was granted the status of 'holder of the national elm collection' in 1998. You can find information on visiting the remaining mature British elm trees here

We may one day have lots of mature elm trees in the UK but for now we have to wait and see how the young saplings from the elm experiment work out.

Ash dieback 

It is a more recent fungus the first recording of which was in 2012. It is spread most commonly from transporting and replanting infected trees but can also spread in the wind. When the disease was sighted in 2012 an immediate ban of movement of ash trees was put into place and is yet to be lifted. This ban helps to prevent the spread of infected trees to healthy ones.

Whilst little is currently known about the disease, we do know that young trees are worse affected. Mature trees seem to be able to survive a while with the disease, therefore maintaining the ecosystem around them for years to come. Unusually some trees appear to be completely resistant to the disease, even when in a highly affected area.

Unlike the elm project, the woodland trust is working on finding these trees which appear to hold immunity to the disease and propagating them. We have one such project taking place in Suffolk where trees from different parts of the UK have been planted. They are then monitored to identify which trees are naturally resistant or tolerant to ash dieback. Only when the experiments are finished will we know what the long term outcome is likely to be for Ash trees in the UK.

Autumn leave on forest floor

We source all of our wood with a Forest Stewardship Council certification, which means that the ash trees are not infected and the woodland areas are responsibly managed and long term plans are in place. It is really important when buying wooden products online to check that the wood used is FSC certified and if possible has tree traceability. FSC is an international licensing that ensures our forests are managed in a responsibly and sustainable way to take care of the people and wildlife within then.

You can see some of our Ash and Elm products here or read more about us, our vision and processes here.

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Myles and Madeleine carrying wood into workshop

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