Having been out planting ten of them at my children’s school earlier this week, trees are definitely on my mind, especially after hearing of some great facts uncovered by scientists in Scotland.
Botanists at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh have found out that cold and windy weather might well have saved the lives of thousands of trees on the Isle of Man.
Dutch elm disease was the tree disaster story of the 1970s and 80s, with up to 75 million trees having been lost on the British mainland. But in the Isle of Man only around one per cent have succumbed even now.
Scientists first thought that they were somehow resistant – but now they believe it’s down to the weather. Dutch elm disease is a fungus that hitchhikes on the bodies of tiny elm bark beetles – and the beetles need it to be at least 20C to fly and not too windy either. And most years it’s been just too cold and windy for them to spread to the island in the Irish Sea.
And there’s more good news in that it might be the same case in Scotland. According to Botanics experts, north of Aberdeen Dutch elm disease seems to disappear and wych elms – Britain’s only native elm and also known as the Scots elm – are very hardy. The English elm, one variety which really got hammered in the 1970s, is actually a clone, reproduced through grafts and cuttings – one of the reasons why it fared so badly.
Of course, there’s always the fear that as our weather warms, the beetle might get more active and the disease might spread. But as spring tries to emerge amid the wind and snow, it’s good to know.