Chance to see rare butterfly in under-threat Sheffield elm tree

Protesters gather in force to complain about the planned feling of an Elm tree at Chelsea Road
Protesters gather in force to complain about the planned feling of an Elm tree at Chelsea Road
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Campaigners will give people the chance to see a rare butterfly in a Sheffield tree due to be felled.

Sheffield resident and Save Nether Edge Trees campaigner Paul Selby has hired an open top bus so people can see the White Letter Hairstreak butterfly that has been spotted in the branches of an elm on the corner of Chelsea Road and Union Road in Nether Edge.

A white letter hairstreak butterfly

A white letter hairstreak butterfly

Mr Selby said the species had declined by 97 per cent in 40 years in the UK, and is now a Biodiversity Action Plan species.

The bus will be parked underneath the tree on Thursday, July 28, between 10.30am and 3.30pm.

The elm tree is itself unusual, according to campaigners, as it is potentially resistant to Dutch Elm Disease, which has killed more than 60 million UK elm trees since the 1920s.

Mr Selby said: “I’ve been planning this event for four months now. I want it to be a celebration of this amazing tree and its special colony of the rare butterfly.

Protesters gather in force to complain about the planned feling of an Elm tree at Chelsea Road

Protesters gather in force to complain about the planned feling of an Elm tree at Chelsea Road

“Local residents feel very strongly about this tree, and cannot believe that Sheffield Council still want to chop it down. We’re asking local people to visit the bus to show the depth of support for the tree.”

Paul has organized the event with the support of The Woodland Trust, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, The Conservation Foundation and Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire Branch.

All four charities are sending representatives to the event to provide information and advice to the public. They will help people to spot the butterfly, talk about the importance of trees, and elms specifically, and provide advice on how to attract butterflies to your garden.

There will also be face painting and other activities for children.

Oliver Newham from The Woodland Trust said: “Street trees are vitally important for cities. They slow flash floods, combat air pollution, and support wildlife. In hot weather, when roads soak up and radiate heat, trees cool the atmosphere, acting as nature’s air conditioning system. They connect people with nature and create a sense of health and well-being. It’s important that Sheffield’s threatened mature street trees are saved”

Dr Nicky Rivers from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust said: “We are supporting this event as we think this elm tree is a special case because of the rarity of the tree itself and the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly colony it supports.

“This is a tree where all options should be explored fully to avoid felling and we would like to work with local residents, Streets Ahead, the Independent Tree Panel and the local groups to find a solution to retain this magnificent tree. We encourage people to come along to learn more about the elm and butterflies at this community event.”

And David Shreeve, director of The Conservation Foundation, said: “The elm on Chelsea Road is a unique example of a landscape once seen across Britain, and provides a rare habitat for species such as the White-letter hairstreak butterfly. Our more than thirty years of experience working to conserve Britain’s elm trees have shown us the huge value they hold, and every effort should be made to celebrate and conserve this exceptional tree.”