A species of trees thought to be extinct for decades have been found in Queen Elizabeth II’s garden at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh, Scotland. Two 33-meter trees, called the Wentworth elms or Ulmus wentworthii pendula, were located by scientists from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).
Wentworth elm trees were thought to be completely extinct, as well as other 75 million trees in the UK, in the last century due to the Dutch elm disease. Scientists are now looking for methods to propagate the tree species.
“Such a discovery when the trees in question are just shy of 100 ft and in plain sight does sound rather odd,” says Max Coleman of RBGE. “It is very likely the only reason these rare elms have survived is because the Edinburgh City council has been surveying and removing diseased elms since the 1980s.
The experts cannot determine where the trees came from. Other curators and archivists at the royal household and RBGE are now toiling to reveal where the very rare trees originated.
Interestingly, previous studies on the garden somehow overlooked the trees. Analysis of archives also reveal that three trees came to the Edinburgh botanic garden from Germany in 1902 but only one was thought to have survived.
However, the last surviving Wentworth elm died in 1996. Coleman says that it could be possible that the two missing trees from RBGE are actually the trees they found recently but they cannot explain how it got lost from RBGE and made its way to the Queen’s garden.
Nevertheless, Alan Keir, the Holyrood park and manager for the Historic Environment Scotland (HES), says that his team has taken care of the trees over the past several years. They would gladly collaborate with the scientists in looking after the only remaining samples of the trees in the UK.