May 5th, 2014

(relatively) recent

Elm

When my parents were growing up, the elm tree was one of the defining characteristics of the English countryside. By the time of my own childhood, though, the species had been virtually wiped out on this sceptred isle, by a new and virulent strain of Dutch Elm Disease brought by elm bark beetles sheltering on a load of timber imported from the United States. So I was told at university, with the addition that the elm trees in botanical gardens in the UK nowadays (i.e. in the mid nineties) required year-round attention from gardeners ready to lop off any limb that started succumbing to the disease.

Wikipedia informs me, however, that there's over 4000 mature elms still left in Edinburgh; I used to live there, but had no idea the trees were elms. It also says:
The species still survives in hedgerows, as the roots are not killed and send up root sprouts. These suckers rarely reach more than 5 m tall before succumbing to a new attack of the fungus. However, established hedges kept low by clipping have remained apparently healthy throughout the nearly 40 years since the onset of the disease in the UK.
Anyhow, not having yet read this article, I was quite surprised last winter to see a plaque on Finchley Road in Temple Fortune by a sapling reading:

'This elm tree planted in the year 2012 by the Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents Association commemorates the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II'

Not knowing what an elm leaf looks like, I was quite excited about this and looking forward to seeing how the tree would turn out come spring.

For me, spring happened very suddenly this year, because I spent two weeks around Pesach in Berlin, where the trees lose their leaves earlier, and regain them later, than in the UK. When I left London, the buds were only just starting to open, on some trees; when I came back, every tree suddenly had a plethora of already large-grown leaves—and now I could finally get to see an answer to my question:

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[ETA: Jonathan "Gazingatthestars" informs me on Facebook that this is actually a Dutch Elm Disease-resistant strain of elm; hooray that this has been achieved.]

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