Trees believed extinct found thriving at royal palace

Trees believed extinct found thriving at royal palace

Two Wentworth elms, thought to be extinct in Great Britain for the past 50 years, were found in a recent botanical survey at the Queen's Scotland residence.

February 8, 2017

Tree experts have been excited by the “discovery” of two mature specimens – until now thought to be extinct in Britain – within the Queen’s garden at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh city center. Now thoughts are turning to propagation of the rare royal 100-foot-tall Wentworth elms (Ulmus 'Wentworthii Pendula).

An attractive cultivar with a “weeping” habit of growth and large glossy leaves, the Wentworth elm was probably introduced to cultivation in the late 19th century. But it was thought to have been wiped-out in the devastating Dutch elm disease epidemic that destroyed between 25 and 75 million trees in Britain during the late 20th century.

“Such a discovery when the trees in question are just shy of 100 feet and in plain sight does sound rather odd,” conceded Dr. Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) who identified the specimens after they were noted as being unusual during a tree survey.

“It is very likely the only reason these rare elms have survived is because Edinburgh City Council has been surveying and removing diseased elms since the 1980s. Without that work many more of the thousands of elms in Edinburgh would have been lost. The success of this program may be partly demonstrated in the way two rare trees have been preserved.”

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Photo: Saffron Blaze

The Palace of Holyrood House and the Holyrood Abbey as viewed from the Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh, Scotland.