RESIDENTS found a rare Elm tree when they were giving their street a festive spruce-up to make drivers slow down.

Around 30 children and parents were decking out Dyke Road Drive, Brighton, with tinsel and baubles to try to stop drivers from using it as an “urban motorway”.

But as they put the decorations up they came across a rare White Elm cultivar – believed to be one of only two in the south of England.

The residents are now making the effort to preserve their special tree and are planning to plant cuttings and see if they take root.

William Shaw, an author, from Dyke Road Drive, said: “We were very surprised but someone at some point must have had a record of it – there is another in Hailsham.

“We noticed it when we were dressing the tree.

“In the autumn other elms go yellow while this variety goes red.

“We got in touch with the council and they said they will try to help us to take some cuttings of it and plant them and see which ones take.”

A cultivar is a variety produced by cultivation.

Anthony Becvar, East Sussex County Council's elm tree officer, said: “If it is a White Elm cultivar then yes, they are pretty rare. A lot of elms are rare now.

“It's a cultivar because the city has a lot of hybrid elm trees and so it might be a White Elm crossed with something.”

The roadside tree dressing ceremony is becoming a yearly event as residents try to slow down motorists.

Mr Shaw said: “A couple of us sneaked out last year and put baubles on some of the trees. We are really keen on stopping the road being used as a rat run and trying to point out people live here.

“People just think it is an urban motorway and they shoot down here doing 40 or 50mph.”

Dyke Road Drive is included in the council’s 20mph zone rollout.

Jane McMorrow, chairwoman of the Dyke Road Drive Residents Association, said: “Drivers regularly speed through our street at dangerous speeds.

“We wanted to think of a fun way to show them that all sorts of people and families live here. By dressing our street this way we thought we’d give them a reason to slow down.”