Free elm trees for East Sussex schools

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SCHOOLS and colleges in Uckfield, Heathfield, Newick, Broad Oak, Seaford, Hastings and Lewes are set to receive a free elm tree sapling for their grounds.

The County Council and Conservation Foundation are providing free elms to schools to try and encourage the spread of elms in the area.

For more than 40 years elms have been under threat from Dutch elm disease which killed millions since its arrival in the UK in 1971. The only way to reduce the spread of the disease is to fell and burn infected trees. So far this year, within the control zone, the council has felled or burnt infected limbs from more than 900 diseased trees.

By providing schools with a sapling elm the council hopes to encourage the spread of the tree and find examples that are disease-resistant.

The saplings are grown from cuttings taken from mature trees around the country that have escaped the ravages of Dutch elm disease, due to some inherent resistance.

The Conservation Foundation’s Great British Elm Experiment asks schools and community groups to plant these trees and monitor their growth.

Most of the saplings are between 35cm and 90cm but elms can grow up to 20-30cm. It is only after about 10-15 years that the trees could be infected with the disease.

East Sussex now contains the only population of mature English elms in the world, helped by a Dutch elm disease control area set up in 1973 to protect them. The area extends from Eastbourne to Brighton running from the Downs to the sea.