A welcome return of elms to Florence Park

Published: Thursday, 21st October 2021

Oxford City Council is embarking on a project in partnership with local conservation group Oxford Communities for Zero Carbon to bring elm trees back to Florence Park.

Elm trees were once common in Oxford and Florence Park in particular boasted some fine specimens. A number of these were already large mature trees when the park was created in the 1930s and they were incorporated within it.

The blight of Dutch elm disease
Sadly, like the majority of elms across the county, they were all lost to Dutch elm disease in the 1970s; but the location of one of these trees is revealed by the existence of a bastion in the railings on Rhymers Lane. This circular kink in the railings was needed to skirt around the large tree already growing on this boundary. It now stands as a sad reminder of the lost giant it once embraced.

But after an absence of many decades these beautiful native trees are about to make a comeback. Varieties growing in Sussex have remained resistant to the disease, and the availability of stock grown from them now provides the possibility to start planting again.

Partnering with Oxford Communities for Zero Carbon
When Oxford Communities for Zero Carbon approached the City Council’s Green Spaces Manager with a proposal to plant a new tree avenue in Florence Park it seemed like the ideal opportunity. The avenue will be a memorial to the late Jan Seed, who very sadly died in March and was Chair of LEAF (Local Environmental Action Florence Park). LEAF is one of the Oxford Communities for Zero Carbon, which also includes Low Carbon Oxford East, Rose Hill and Iffley, Oxford West and Oxford North.

The City Council helped get things underway by awarding a £500 grant to the project as part of its Green Neighbourhoods scheme and a successful campaign raised the remaining necessary funds. Cllr Paula Dunne and Cllr Amar Latif each also donated £500 from their ward budgets to the project. 

The six new trees will be semi-grown to give them the best opportunity to survive to maturity in this urban location. They will be planted in November.

Oxford contains an estimated 248,233 trees, which benefit over 154,600 people. That’s nearly two trees per person, double the ratio for London. Oxford City Council has developed an Urban Forest Strategy to maximise the benefits trees have on the local environment and communities; it's aimed at playing a part in helping the city achieve net zero carbon by 2040.

“As part of the City Council’s wider agenda to support biodiversity, we are delighted to be working with the Oxford Communities for Zero Carbon to be planting elms in the city again.
“In addition to being large magnificent trees in their own right, once mature elms provide a habitat and food source for a wide range of other species who are attracted to this once common native tree.

“At a time when there is so much pressure on wildlife this is a really good news story, and it’s equally pleasing that the wonderful tree-scape in Florence Park will be further enhanced by the return of one of its original key species.”
Cllr Lubna Arshad, Cabinet Member for Parks and Waste Reduction