Elms are deciduous and semi-deciduous trees, of which we have several species offering our customers welcome shade around the Pavilion Gardens Cafe. They have the genus Ulmus in the plant family Ulmaceae. They first appeared in the Miocene geological period about 20 million years ago, originating in central Asia. They are spread over most of the Northern Hemisphere, regions of North America and Eurasia, ranging southward across the Equator into Indonesia.
The Dutch Elm, or Ulmus x Hollandica ‘Major’ was known as ypereau in Picardy and northern France from the 15th to the 19th century, and was introduced to England via Holland in the 17th century. It became very popular in the 18th century, but mature specimens are rare in the UK, apart from in Brighton. Our city is host to many of the notable specimens of Dutch Elm in the country, some of which are estimated to be over 400 years old, and Brighton and Hove is the holder of the NCCPG Elm Collection. Please see the map of the trees around the Pavilion Gardens Cafe for an overview of the specimens we enjoy every day of the year.
The Dutch Elm can grow to a height of over 30 metres, with a short bole and wide-spreading branches. It has handsome, dark green leaves of an oval shape, tapering to a fine point. In the spring, it produces large clusters of red flowers that are pollinated by the wind.
These trees are prone to ‘Dutch Elm Disease’. Dutch Elm Disease is one of the most serious tree diseases. It is caused by two related species of fungi, which are disseminated by various elm bark beetles. The disease affects many Elm trees native to North America and Europe. Many Asiatic species of Elm have evolved anti-fungal genes and are therefore resistant. The Dutch Elm is, as the name suggests, very prone to the disease, which is why mature specimens are so rare generally in the UK. We are fortunate in Brighton to have 15,000 elms still standing, thanks to the sea providing a natural barrier and the keen preservation efforts.