The Wentworth Elm was thought to be extinct in the UK, for at least the last few decades. But fortunately, there’s a secret stash hiding out in Queen Elizabeth II's garden.
Alarmed by their unusual appearance, scientists from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) picked up on the two 33-meter (100 feet) trees during a survey of the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s Scottish residence in Edinburgh.
The last of the trees were thought to be wiped out during the Dutch elm disease epidemic that tore through Europe during the last century. But after a short analysis of the specimens at the palace, the RBGE were able to confirm they were indeed two examples of the Wentworth Elm (Ulmus wentworthii pendula).
“Such a discovery when the trees in question are just shy of 100 feet and in plain sight does sound rather odd,” Dr Max Coleman, of the RBGE, told the Press Association.
“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.”
Botanists are now working on ways to propagate the trees for future generations to enjoy, since this pair might be the last remaining two in Europe.
Previous surveys of the grounds failed to notice the trees, but a retrospective look at the archival evidence shows the two Wentworth elms arrived at the RGBE from Germany at some point in 1902. How they made their way into the grounds of Holyroodhouse remains unclear.
“The Historic Environment Scotland (HES) gardens team have undertaken careful maintenance of these specimens over the past several years, including crown reduction and limb-bracing works, and we’re proud to help look after the only remaining examples of these trees in Britain,” added Alan Keir, Holyrood park and gardens manager for HES.