Our Zelkova

Without the Dulwich Estate’s extremely well managed tree conservation policy and new tree planting, there is no doubt that all who live and travel through Dulwich would have far less of an enjoyable and beneficial experience.  Generally the abundance of healthy looking trees in Dulwich are in as near to natural form as possible which is a wonderful experience, soft on the eye and calming of the mind - certainly this reduces the amount of stress in our busy lives and adds a huge amount of beauty and value, not forgetting all the environmental benefits, of course.

I think there is one short term exception to the rule, the Zelkova carpinifolia on the junction with College Road and the South circular junction. Certainly there will be few people who have not noticed the relatively sad, small (but still huge!) portion of this tree that is left standing on the corner. Most people will also know that this had to be done to make the tree safe at this very busy junction.  Its stark "chopped off" state is hopefully only temporary and the look should be very different later this year with a flush of new growth, hopefully by July it will start to look a lot better!   Looking a few years forward it could be a small safe version of its old self.

I think it’s essential to be clear about the reasons we should consider keeping the Zelkova:-

  1. Very long lived species and could go on for another 250 years.
  2. One of a handful of specimens of this age and girth in the country (introduced from the Caucasus 1760).
  3. A member of the Elm family which up to the 1970’s was abundant in Dulwich and now there are virtually none in London and few mature specimens are left in the country due to disease.
  4. Seems very resistant to disease and produces very little dead wood.
  5. Smooth grey bark with patches of rust-orange are striking, unusual and improve with age.
  6. Evidence from pollarding shows no signs of decay.
  7. Provides a key historical landmark feature for Dulwich with great amenity value (even though it has lost its amazing height).
  8. Has a unique buttressed base of huge proportions and provides an amazing example of how a very large tree adapts to a lean.
  9. Re-growth should be upright and balanced.
  10. The extraordinary growth habit of dense multi-stemmed upright branches is similar in many ways to a pollarded tree.

Hoping our tree may be a striking accent on the Dulwich landscape for years  to come.

John Welton


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