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Daily checks on world's oldest elms after fungus disease hits Brighton park
The world’s oldest elms are being checked daily after deadly fungus claimed five other trees in the same park.
Towering elms, many more than 100 years old, have been chopped down in Preston Park, Brighton, after being attacked by an airborne disease.
Another ancient tree which has been in the park for 170 years has been treated with a drastic chop in an attempt to save it.
The park is home to the Preston Twins, the oldest elm trees in the world at 350 years old, which are being monitored daily by Brighton and Hove City Council staff. They are currently free from disease.
A Wheatley elm is the latest victim to have succumbed to the chain saw in Brighton’s biggest urban park after being riddled with fungus for several years.
Neil Brothers, aboriculturalist at Brighton and Hove City Council, told the Friends of Preston Park the tree had two forms of fungus eating away at its core.
The tree’s neighbour is also starting to show signs of disease and is being assessed to see if it also needs to come down – which would make it the sixth tree to be lost in 18 months.
A 170-year-old English elm has had a drastic chop to try to save it. A large branch fell from the tree during the summer, creating a hole. High winds then caused more havoc and further branches have been lost.
A council spokeswoman said: “We are always disappointed when it is not possible to save a tree. We are keen to preserve and care for existing trees as much as possible.
“Replanting is a priority when a tree has to be felled. Much of the current tree stock in Preston Park was planted in the early 1900s. Due to age, some trees are now succumbing to disease and failing safety inspections.”
Dutch elm disease is carried by beetles which burrow into the trees but if they are caught early branches can be removed to save the tree and prevent it from being felled.
A council spokesperson said: “Brighton and Hove City Council arboriculture team carry out inspections of trees across the city to make sure they are healthy.
“Any tree found to be damaged or diseased is assessed to see how it can be cared for or safely removed if that is the only option.”
The recently felled trees will be replaced with new Wheatley elms, which are grown specially in Hyde Park.
Brighton and Hove has been internationally renowned for its work to manage elm disease since the 1970s.
The city has the largest stock of elm species and varieties in Britain.