Spring in the east of Scotland is always a hesitant affair subject to frequent, short-lived reconciliation with winter. I guard against hope building by relaxing only when I see the first leaves on the wych elm (Ulmus glabra).
But about 5 years ago, it became evident that this way marker to sunnier times was being removed without anyone commenting. As the hedgerows came into leaf, what I had assumed simply to be bare winter elms turned out to be ghost trees whose bleached forms stood out ever more painfully as summer greens deepened.
We never had a large population of English elm (Ulmus procera) in this part of the country so didn’t see the worst effects on the landscape of Dutch Elm Disease when it swept through England in the 1970′s. Nevertheless, glabra is susceptible to the same disease and I am wondering if the run of mild winters (until this current one) favoured the spread of the disease’s vector, the elm bark beetle, to these parts. If you are a plant pathologist or forester and know the reasons behind the comparatively recent, catastrophic die-off of mature wych elms in eastern Scotland, please tell me!