Residents urged to help protect elm population

Diseased Elm
Diseased Elm

RYE and Battle area residents are being urged to join the battle to protect the only population of mature English elms left in the UK from Dutch Elm Disease.

East Sussex County Council is calling on members of the public to keep an eye open for signs of the disease among its 17,000 strong elm tree population.

During summer and early autumn, infected trees can be identified by yellowing and shrivelled leaves, turning brown as the infection spreads.

Dutch Elm Disease has killed about 25 million trees in the UK since its arrival in 1971.

It is caused by a member of the sac fungi (Ascomycota) and is spread by the elm bark beetle.

After the leaves are infected the disease spreads to the rest of the tree, with further dieback of branches. Eventually, the roots die, starved of nutrients from the leaves

It takes it name from its identification, in 1921, in the Netherlands.

Some of the trees in Sussex are estimated to be over 400 years old.

Anthony Becvar, the county council’s dedicated Dutch Elm Disease officer, said: “As well as being the only population of mature English elms in the UK, these trees make an important contribution to our local landscape and are home to a number of plants and animals.

“ We’re asking residents to help spot the disease so that we can make sure we keep it under control.

“The control programme is designed to protect as many elms as possible from the disease and although some will have to be felled, this is to ensure that a healthy and strong population continues to thrive.”

Last year East Sussex County Council felled around 1435 mature trees to prevent the spread of the disease. So far this year about 450 diseased trees have been cut down and a further 200 elm trees showing signs of the disease are being closely monitoring.

As soon as they become breeding sites for the elm bark beetles, which spread Dutch Elm Disease, they will be cut down. This will reduce the beetle population, which will help control the spread of the disease.

Advice on how to spot Dutch Elm Disease can be found on the County Council’s website at

Sightings of diseased trees can be reported by calling 0345 60 80 190. You can also report via the East Sussex County Council website

Details of the location of the tree, the name of the property and property owner, the number of trees infected and how much of the tree appears affected are needed.

Sussex has also been affected by Ash Dieback, also caused by a fungal disease. Thousands of ash trees across the UK for signs of the disease during early November 2012. It was one of several actions to emerge from a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee.