Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

Share this story


#ARBatwork #ArbMatters #PledgeLessPlastic & 12 Faces of Arb 1987 storm 2 Rope 2018 30 Under 30 3ATC 3ATC UK Open 50th annual AA AA award AA Awards Aboricultural Association Accident accreditation advice AFL aftercare AGM Agrilus Biguttatus aid air quality Alert Alex Kirkley All Party Parliamentary Group on Horticulture amenity Amenity Conference Anatomy Ancient Tree Forum Annual Awards APF APF 2020 app APPGHG application Appointment apprentice apprenticeship Apprenticeships Approved Approved Contractor Approved Contractors ARB ARB Approved Contractor ARB Approved Contractors ARB at work ARB Magazine ARB Show arb training ArbAC ARBatwork ArbCamp Arbor Day Arboricultural Association Arboriculture arborists Arbsafe Ash Ash Archive ash dieback Asian Hornet Assessments atf ATO Australia Autumn Review award Awards Barcham Trees Bark Beetle Bartlett Bartlett Tree Experts bats beetle beyond ism Bill Matthews biochar biodiversity biomechanical biosecurity Book Prize Book Shop Books Bookshop boundaries branch Branches brand Brexit bs5837 Budgeting Tool bursary business Call for Abrstacts Call for papers Campout Canker stain of plane carbon career Cavanagh CCS Cellular Confinement Cellular Confinement Systems CEnv CEO Ceratocystis Ceratocystis platani chainsaw chalara charity Charles charter Charter for Trees Chartered Environmentalist chelsea Chelsea Flower Show Claus Mattheck climate climate change climber climbing Cofor Colleges committees competition competiton conference Confor conifers conservation Consultant consultation Continuous Professional Development Contractor Contractors Cornwall Cornwall Branch Coronavirus Coroner Council Countryside Countryside Code Countryside Stewardship Course for beginners COVID-19 CPD cross industry news Crown & Canopy Cryphonectria parasitica Cumbria DART Date for your diary deadwood death debate Debt defra Design Devon Director disease diversity document donate dothistroma downloads draft Dutch elm EAC East Anglia ecology Economic Report economy Ecotricity education EFUF Election elections Electricity Elm yellows Emerald Ash Borer England England Tree Strategy English Elm environment environmental EPF equipment Europe European Arboricultural Council European Forum on Urban Forestry European Wood Pastures Event exeter Exhibitors Fall from Height Fatal Fatality felling Fellow Fellow Members Fera Field Trip Finance Fine firewood First Aid flood flooding for Forest Research forestry Forestry Commission forests freelancers FSC Fund4Trees funding fundraiser fungal fungi Future Flora Futurebuild gardening GDPR Geocells Gold Medal Gov.uk government grant grants Green Brexit Green Infrastructure Green Infratructure Guarantee guidance Guidance Note Guidance Note 2 guide guides Hazard Tree Health heart-rot hedges Helliwell Help Henry Girling Henry Kuppen History HMRC HOMED Homeworking Honey Brothers honours Horse Chestnut HortAid horticulture horticulturists HortWeek housing HRH HRH Prince Charles HS2 HSE HTA ICF ICoP identification Immigration import industry Industry Code of Practice industry skills Infographic InfraGreen Initiatives Inspiration Insurance Intermediate Tree Inspection International Urban Forestry Congress International Women’s Day International Year of Plant Health Investigating Tree Archaeology Conference Ips typographus Irma irrigation ISA iso i-Tree IUFC IWD21 Job job opportunity judgement JustGiving Karabiner Kew Kit land-based Landsaping Landscape Institute Landscape Show landscaping Lantra law Leaf Minor Lectures legal legislation Letters Liability licence London longevity LTOA Magazine manifesto maple Mayor of London MBE Melbourne Member Benefit Membership mentor Midlands moth' motion Myerscough NASA National Geographic National Tree Safety Group National Tree Week NATO Natural England NatureScot Netherlands New Year’s Honours News NHS nominations Northern Northumberland Notice notification NTIS NTOA NTOC NTSG Nurseries oak 'oak Oak Processionary Moth Oak-boring Beetle obituary Observatree occupation online opm Padua Papua parks parliament Perennial Pests & Diseases Pests and Diseases petition photo Phytophthora planning Planning Law Plant Health planting Plantsman Pledge Plumpton College policy poll Poster Power PPE Preston Twins Prince Charles Prince of Wales processionary Product Recall Professional Members prosecution Protect and Survive protected tree protection Qualifications Quotatis ramorum RC Reg Harris Registered Registered Consultant Registered Consultants Rememberance Day renewal REnvP Report Rescue research Research grant Resilience response results retrenchment review RFS rhs RHS Chelsea Flower Show Ride for Research Ride4Research rigging Rodney Helliwell rogue tree surgeons Royal Forestry Society RSFS Safe Working Practice Safety Safety Bulletin Safety Guides Saftey Sale school Scotland Scotland Branch Scottish Branch SDG Accord security seminars Share Sheffield Show Sierra Leone Site Guidance skills skills survey SocEnv soil soils South East South West SRT SRWP staff Standards statement Stationary Rope Stationary Rope Technique statutory STIHL strategy student Student Book Prize Student Conference Study Trip Sub-contractors Supporter survey Sustainable Soils Alliance Sweet Chestnut sweet chestnut blight symposium T Level T Levels Tatarian maple TDAG technical guide Technical Guides Technical Officers Technical Team Technician Members Technology Ted Green tender Thames & Chiltern The Arboricultural Association The Woodland Trust Thinking Arbs Thinking Arbs Day Timbersports Tony Kirkham Tools top-handled chainsaws,Elcoat, TPBE4 TPO Trading Standards trailblazer training transport Tree Tree Care Tree Champion Tree Council Tree Fayre Tree Health Tree Health Week Tree Inspection tree loss tree management Tree of the year Tree Officer Tree officers tree planning Tree Planting Tree Protection tree register tree species Tree Supply Tree Surgeon Tree Surgeons Tree Week Tree Work at Height Tree Workers Zone Treeconomics tree-felling TreeRadar trees trees' Trees & Society Trees, People and the Built Environment trust' trustee Trustees TrustMark Two Rope two-rope UAG Uitlity UK favourite ukas UKWAS urban urban forest Urban Forestry Urban Tree Challenge Fund Urban Tree Cover Urban Tree World Cup urban trees Utility Arboriculture Group UTWC vacancy VETcert veteran trees video Videos Virtual ARB Show volunteer voting VTA WAC Wales Warning Watering watering solutions Webinar webinars website Western Westonbirt Wharton White Paper WIA Witley Women Women in Arb women in arboriculture woodland Woodland Carbon Code Woodland Carbon Guarantee woodland trust woods Workshops World Environment Day Xylella young young arborists Young People’s Breakfast Event zoo

One of the last ancient English elms is dying of DED

Author:  Peter Bourne
Last Updated:  27/08/2019
The Preston Twins in 2007. The tree on the left is the one due to be felled.

The Preston Twins in 2007. The tree on the left is the one due to be felled.

Brighton and Hove is home to some 700 mature English elms (Ulmus minor ‘Atinia’), part of a population of some 40,000 mature elm trees. Over the years the city has steadily lost trees to Dutch elm disease, but in recent years, as the County Council struggles financially to combat DED, logs from infected trees have been brought into the very heart of the city for sale to stove owners and with unfortunate consequences.

The logs are barked and often infested by Scolytae, the major vector in DED. As a result, the disease has been popping up all over the city, even in areas that had not seen infections for many years.

The Preston Twins are renowned nowadays as the world’s oldest remaining English elms and Europe’s largest. They stand in Preston Park’s Coronation Garden along with two smaller next-generation English elm saplings, two Camperdown elms (Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii) and a Coronation planting of the rare Ulmus ‘Den Haag’ weeping elm.

In September 2017 one of the Preston Twins, the East tree, lost two major limbs in a storm. The tree was badly damaged but was stable health-wise. The City Tree Team was concerned for its survival and had the tree fenced off as it was considered unsafe to some extent, and to allow the tree to regrow after some careful pollarding was done on it and its companion nearby.

The East Tree in 2017 when it received major wind damage after a storm. This tree is now dying of Dutch elm disease.

The East Tree in 2017 when it received major wind damage after a storm. This tree is now dying of Dutch elm disease.

The Preston Twins got their name after I measured the trees in the late 1980s: I found they had similar measurements, and later similar ages were proven by consulting landscape paintings and historical records. The elms are almost certainly former hedgerow trees which later became screening for the nearby Manor House. Other English elms also used for screening having long since gone, the Preston Twins became a landmark for the city and in recent years gained much acclaim owing to their former status as world champions in girth size – they were recently overtaken by trees in Australia.

The trees became popular with school children as environmental issues became more and more prominent in the media. Both are very much hollow and have competed with each other for reigning champion in Europe, but after 2017 the once-champion tree lost 40cm of its circumference owing to a huge scar left by a solid heavy limb with an enormous burr. This meant its ‘brother’ became the reigning champion.

Sadly, the health of the damaged tree was touch-and-go, and despite the constant vigil of local residents this season’s hot temperatures and the looming doom of DED vectors have seen its demise. After 400 years of being a noble guard to the Manor, the tree finally succumbed to DED.

The public reacted with sadness and concern. The locals are proud of their elm population and the Preston Twins were its banner. Local press quickly picked up on the story and we found ourselves on radio and in local and national newspapers. As Volunteer Curator for the National Elm Collection, I had people from as far away as Maryland, USA, showing concern for the tree and support from local groups to help with elm propagation etc. Trenches were dug around the tree to prevent the disease from spreading to its neighbours; this made the scene look more devastating to some locals but was a very necessary precaution as the other Preston Twin (the West tree) is now the current European Champion English elm. Only time will tell whether the other tree will waver owing to the loss of its brother.

As one of the last bastions for the English elm’s natural range left in the world, we are seeing a change in the elm population which cannot be avoided, from the old-school historic species to the new resistant clones of today. However, the old giants like the Preston Twins will never be forgotten.

I have some good news to conclude the bad. The Dutch planted a sapling recently in Amsterdam as a way of thanking a DED officer for her services to the city. The sapling is Ulmus minor ‘Actinia’, grown from a cutting taken in 2008 of the tree in Brighton that now is due to be felled.

Peter Bourne is Volunteer Elm Inspector for Brighton and Hove City Council and Volunteer Curator for the National Elm Collection, Plant Heritage.

This article was taken form Issue 186 Autumn 2019 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.