A 400-year-old elm tree which has survived disease, drought and freezing winds will have progeny all around Pembrokeshire and could help save the species, thanks to an innovative local project.

Growing Better Connections has been collecting seeds from the ancient Wych elm (Ulmus glabra) tree near Eglwyswrw.

During its lifetime of between three and four centuries it has seen many man made changes in the landscape and silently witnessed horses become tractors, planes fly overhead, and cables interlace its roots and branches.

The elm is home to abundant flora and fauna including owls which nest in a hollow in its trunk and several species of birds that nest in the ivy covering its branches. A plethora of insects also use it for food and shelter.

The seeds were collected by Adam Dawson of Growing Better Connections, working with Bobby Simmons of RS Arboriculture, who supplied a mobile elevated work platform.

The seeds have been shared among small local tree nurseries to propagate and the saplings will be reintroduced into the Pembrokeshire and south Wales countryside.

“With such a strong parent they stand a higher chance than most of resisting Dutch elm disease and of being well adapted to the increasingly frequent extreme weather caused by climate change,” said Adam.

“Their ancestry will make them particularly likely to be well suited to the conditions of this area.”

The nurseries have agreed to give back 20% of the final stock from this seed for community or charitable tree planting schemes.

Saplings from the elm should be available to the public from the local provenance tree nursery run by Simon Richards and Lance Beaton at Scolton Manor from 2024 onwards.

It is hoped that some of these elms can be planted to replace ash trees that are currently being lost to die back.

“We are grateful to the owners of this tree for permitting us to access it on private land, and to collect seed,” said Adam.

“We would be interested to hear about other ancient trees in the area, to help record and potentially collect seed from them.”

If you know of any such trees, contact adam@cwmarian.org.uk and include photos to help with identification and estimating age.