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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 20:53 GMT
Nursery attempts to restore elms
Princeton elm saplings
The saplings are being sent out to buyers across the UK
A Dorset nursery is helping to restore the elm to the English landscape three decades after millions of trees were wiped out by Dutch elm disease.

A virulent strain of the disease first became a problem in the 1970s. By the 1990s, 25 million of the trees had been felled after dying.

The fatal fungus is carried from tree to tree by elm bark beetles.

Knoll Gardens, near Wimborne, has now started to import an American species of elm which can resist the fungus.

Prince Charles

Neil Lucas, owner of Knoll Gardens, said: "Dutch elm [disease] works by blocking the feeding cells of a tree so a tree effectively dies from dehydration or starvation - this doesn't actually happen with the Princeton elm.

"Scientifically, it is tolerant. It catches the disease but it shrugs it off."

Mr Lucas has been getting orders for the saplings from all over the UK, including from Prince Charles, who has bought six trees for his Highgrove estate.

"My very first job as a head gardener at the age of 21 was to take down over 400 elm from 50 acre site and by the time we had finished it was quite devastating, it was completely flat," Mr Lucas added.

"I have always carried that image with me and to be involved, even in a small way, in actually reintroducing the elm back to the UK is absolutely brilliant."

Dutch elm disease remains the most destructive tree disease and only a few scattered areas around the UK have escaped the virus.

SEE ALSO
Elm disease work 'under threat'
13 Nov 06 |  Southern Counties

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