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Start of great elm comeback

[Tuesday 2 March 2010]

A nationwide project to bring back the English elm using volunteers from hundreds of schools will begin this week with the first distribution of disease-free saplings.

Dutch elm disease, which wiped 25 million trees from the 1960s onwards, was one of the greatest landscape disasters in history: painters like John Constable and hundreds more put the at the centre of many of their classic rural paintings.

This week, the Conservation Foundation will launch the Great British Elm Experiment by starting to distribute disease-resistant saplings to the first 250 schools which have signed on to plant and then log the growth of their progress on-line.

The foundation was launched in 1982 by David Shreeve and the conservationist Dr. David Bellamy and they spent years tracking down small stands of elms which, for reasons yet unknown, had survived the plague.

The saplings have been bred on from those survivors and, say the foundation, “with time – and luck - a new generation of elms will become established throughout the country and a new generation will be encouraged to have an interest in elms and biodiversity.”

For more information, see www.conservationfoundation.co.uk

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