Letter: Hope for hedgerow landmarks

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The Independent Online
Sir: I never thought I would find myself arguing the virtues of scientific Latin against vernacular namings, but Steve Connor's article on the 'new wave' of Dutch elm disease ('Foresters warn Dutch elm disease is back', 22 August) lumps together a whole host of trees in a way that gives an unnecessarily depressing picture of the future of the family.

Pollen deposits show that some varieties of elm have been in these islands for 8,000 years, and have almost certainly suffered - and survived - elm disease dozens of times. One of them is the wych elm, Ulmus glabra, the common species of the North, which does not sucker, and is the least affected by Dutch elm disease.

The traditional 'English' elm, Ulmus procera, may well have sprung from 'one tree introduced into pre-Roman Britain'. But it is the commonest species only in the Midlands, the west and south of England.

In eastern England and the extreme south-west, the smooth- leaved elms, the Ulmus minor group, are the commonest and are quite likely native. These are so far from being 'virtually identical genetically' that Dr R. H. Richens has indentified 35 separate genotypes in different East Anglian river valleys and parishes, as well as numerous hybrids with both U. glabra and U. procera. Some of these, such as the 'Boxworth' elm from Cambridgeshire, are looking promisingly immune to the disease, and as a bonus are not much less evocative as hedgerow landmarks than the old 'English' elm.

Yours faithfully,


Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

22 August