Elms have long been planted for their beauty, amenity value and ability to withstand the rigours of urban environments. These traits, combined with a settler desire to replicate a European landscape, ensured the dominance of the elm in many of Melbourne's parks and gardens and street tree plantings.
The earliest known planting in Melbourne occurred at the Royal Botanic Gardens around 1845. Significant plantings 233 followed at Fitzroy Gardens (1859), Victoria Parade (1878-90) and Royal Parade (1897 and 1910-15). Over 6000 mainly English elms Ulmus procera and Dutch elms U. x hollandica adorn the streets, boulevards and parks in the City of Melbourne, and some 11 200 elms are maintained within a 10-km radius of Melbourne's city centre. The Golden Wych elm U. glabra 'Lutescens', the Weeping Wych elm U. glabra 'Camperdownii' and the Chinese elm U. parvifolia have been widely planted since the 1950s, especially in the gardens of Melbourne's eastern suburbs.
The impact of introduced pests, city growth and the danger of an accidental introduction of Dutch elm disease continue to threaten Melbourne's ageing elm population. As a result of these pressures, groups such as the Friends of the Elms and the Elm Pests and Diseases Task Force have been formed to protect what is considered one of the finest remaining populations of mature elms in the world.