A species of elm thought to be extinct in the UK has just been discovered in one of the Queen’s gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The 100-foot tall “weeping” Wentworth elms were found during a recent botanical survey of the gardens surrounding the Queen’s official residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Wentworth elm Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Dr. Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), who identified the trees, admitted the fact that they were found in plain sight is rather odd.
The trees were 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. Since then, Coleman said the Edinburgh city council has been surveying and removing diseases elms to help fight the spread.
“Without that work many more of the thousands of elms in Edinburgh would have been lost,” Coleman said . “The success of this program may be partly demonstrated in the way two rare trees have been preserved.”
Now, the RBGE is trying to figure out how the trees got there. Archives have revealed that three Wentworth elms arrived at RBGE from Germany in 1902, after which all subsequent records refer to a single tree at the garden. That elm died in 1996 when it succumbed to the disease.
“It is very tempting to speculate that the Wentworth elms at the palace are the two missing trees from RBGE,” Coleman said.
Coleman said anecdotal evidence indicates that there was a close relationship between the RBGE and the palace in the early 20th century, and the head gardener at Holyrood had trained at the garden.
“Although we have no record here of elms going out, we know that a large number of ivy plants went from here to Holyrood to plant round the abbey ruins,” he said.
Now that the Wentworth elm species has been given a second chance at life, horticulturalists are considering ways to propagate the trees so that they can make sure a second extinction doesn’t occur.