One of world's oldest English elms in Brighton park succumbs to Dutch elm disease

A landmark elm tree, one of the UK's oldest, is to be felled after it was found to be infected with Dutch elm disease, while measures are now in place to help save its twin.

Image: Ulmus man (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Image: Ulmus man (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The English elm (Ulmus minor 'Atinia', syn. 'Procera') is one of the so-called Preston Park Twins, which stand at the north end of the city's Preston Park and have a diameter at breast height (dbh) of around 2m.

They are around 400 years old, making them amongst the oldest elm trees in the UK, and probably the oldest English elms anywhere.

Brighton & Hove City Council said it believes one of the two tree became infected late last summer but had not displayed any symptoms until now.

It said  the disease is already into the tree's root system and that it has taken fast action to stop the disease spreading to its twin. On 3 July contractors dug trenches to sever roots connecting the trees, while other nearby trees are also being monitored.

Brighton retains a substantial elm population of over 17,000 thanks to an ongoing programme of vigilance against Dutch elm disease and the beetle which carries it.

But the council warned: "The current hot weather will most likely result in further cases of diseased elms in the city. We urge residents to report any sick looking elms so that we can respond quickly."

It added that there has been a "a massive rise in trees becoming infected and subsequent logs becoming available" from other parts of East Sussex, and this combined with a rapid increase in the use of wood-burning stoves has increased the risk of contaminated wood entering the city.

In response, the council said its arboricultural team would inspect firewood and other timber, as well as elm trees in residents' gardens, for free.

Chair of the council's environment, transport and sustainability committee Councillor Anne Pissaridou said: "Overall, losses to elm disease have been manageable throughout the years and our elm population is always being added to.

"We thank residents for their continued support in spotting and reporting cases of elm disease which helps us act quickly to treat trees and reduce contamination."

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