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Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Monday, 14 June 2010 12:45 UK
Dutch elm disease resistant trees nurtured in Rayne
Elm trees at Rayne
Cuttings from two original elms have been used to grow around 2000 new trees

A species of elm that appears to be resistant to Dutch elm disease is being nurtured by horticulturists in Rayne.

Paul King and Melvyn Crow came across the resilient variety, a smooth leaved elm, in the 1980s whilst clearing trees affected by the devastating disease.

In recent years they have propagated over 2000 new elms from cuttings taken from just two original trees.

"I decided to put some money into it, take a bit of a flyer and see if we could multiply them," said Paul.

"Young people don't really realise the effect that the elm population and it's destruction had on the local scene - it was as important and as prevalent as the oak tree is today," added Melvyn.

Paul, who runs King And Co trees nursery, explained how he had come across the hardy elms by chance whilst clearing trees affected by Dutch elm disease, which killed millions of trees throughout the UK during the 1970s and 1980s.

"Melvyn was the principle tree officer at Braintree District Council, I was a contractor and we were both riding around the district," he said.

"Melvyn said "have you seen those two trees have not at all been affected by the disease" and suggested we took some cuttings."

Elm trees at Rayne
It is hoped the variety will lead to an increase in the UK elm popluation

"I put them into a greenhouse and then forgot about them for about 10 years and then we realised the original trees were still healthy and that these cuttings were as healthy."

Melvyn added: "We take a small cutting, send it off to a laboratory where they take tiny pieces and propagate them from there."

Tree expert Melvyn admitted he was unclear as to why these had survived when millions of other elms have perished over the past 30-40 years.

"There's lots of potential reasons. We're not certain as to why," he said.

"It could be that there is something in the genetic make up of those particular trees. It could just be luck, it could be their position, we just don't know."

Paul added: "We took the view that if we don't do something our successors are not going to see any mature trees in the future."

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