Elm disease

Information on what the service is doing to protect its internationally renowned national elm collection.

Elm disease in Brighton & Hove

The council is proud of its historic elm trees and is internationally renowned for its work in managing elm disease.

This year we’re facing a higher than usual outbreak of the disease and if not brought under control could mean the city losing a large proportion of its 17,000 Elms.

What you can do to help

Elm disease is fairly easy to spot if you know the signs and what to look for. We’re asking you to become an extra pair of eyes and help flag up any trees, on public and private land that you believe may be infected.

If you suspect an elm tree is diseased, please send an email to elmdisease@brighton-hove.gov.uk. Include a photograph of the tree, a close up of the symptoms and a location including street name, building, house number/name or park with approximate location.

We can then take immediate action to inspect the tree, and if infected, remove it and stop the disease spreading.

What elm disease is

Elm disease is caused by:

  • fungi that is transferred from diseased to healthy elms by elm bark beetles
  • the disease being transferred underground between trees through the roots
  • new trees growing from infected fragments following the removal of a diseased tree

How to spot elm disease

Symptoms start to show in early June, and the disease season lasts until September.

Signs of early infection are a wilting and browning or yellowing of parts of the foliage, or greenery, anywhere on the tree.

1.	Emmaus, Portslade. Picture of an infected Elm with wilting and browning / yellowing foliage

Another sign is an elm tree losing its leaves (thinning foliage) in early summer while other elms around it are still full and healthy looking.

Picture of an Elm losing its leaves (thinning foliage) while other Elms are still full and healthy looking

How we control elm disease

  • felling and removing infected trees is often the only way to stem the spread of the disease
  • this is followed by an inspection to determine if nearby elms are infected
  • due to the speed and various way the disease spreads, trees in close proximity are sometimes removed to ‘break the chain’
  • tree girdling, or removing a section of bark around the complete circumference of the trunk, is used to stop the infection spreading to the roots and nearby trees through root transmission
  • limb girdling is also used to try to save a tree by preventing the spread from a particular limb to other parts of the same tree
  • root trenching is used to sever the link of the interconnected roots between healthy and diseased elms, it’s not always successful however

Elm trees on private land

  • these are a source of great danger to other elm trees as they are normally only seen by the owner
  • unless alerted, we cannot inspect these trees
  • once infected, elm trees on private land can easily and rapidly spread the disease to other elms on both private and public land
  • if reported to us, trees with suspected elm disease on private land will be assessed and appropriate action carried out by the council free of charge to the tree owner
  • diseased trees left alone will almost certainly die over a relatively short time frame
  • they will then provide ideal breeding sites for the disease carrying beetles, thus contributing to localised outbreaks of the disease within the city

What we do with the removed trees

  • these are either taken to a secure council facility where any elm wood is destroyed or removed from the city and processed
  • remaining elm stumps are de-barked to prevent the beetles from nesting and breeding in the remaining bark

Buying logs for fuel or ornaments made from elm

  • please don’t buy logs for winter fuel/firewood if the supplier cannot guarantee the wood isn't elm
  • if you’ve already bought logs, or have some in a wood store, and are uncertain what they are, we’ll happily inspect them. If elm, we’ll dispose of them and give you a similar quantity free of charge
  • elm trees should not be cut up and sold within the city
  • elm trees taken out of the city should not be sold or brought back into the city as fire wood as they may house the beetles and also become breeding sites
  • don’t bring any elm timber into the city for use as garden ornaments, seating, etc as they may contain disease carrying elm bark beetles