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30 April 2024

Sapling thought to be from Beauly Elm planted on Site of 800-year-old tree

Historic Environment Scotland and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh have worked together to nurture and plant two new elm saplings

Two workers are helping plant a young Elm Tree

Two young elm trees have been planted on the site of the historic Beauly Elm, which in January last year eventually succumbed to Dutch elm disease.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have worked alongside Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) as a part of their Scottish Plant Recovery project, which aims to encourage natural regeneration in the populations of ten threatened Scottish plant species, including wych elm. One of the saplings was recovered from the site of the Beauly Elm after the tree fell early last year and is thought to have come from the ancient tree, with the other sapling provided by the RBGE who are working to breed elms that develop resistance to the Dutch elm disease as a part of their Scottish Plant Recovery project.

At over 800 years old, the Beauly Elm was thought to be the oldest surviving elm tree in Europe. It’s described in medieval documents as a boundary marker for the land granted to the Valliscaulian Monks on establishment of the Beauly Priory, standing in the north side of the village square for centuries.

The Beauly Elm fell victim to Dutch elm disease and in 2021 the tree was reported as being only 5% living material. Due to its significance to the historic environment, HES's digital documentation team carried out a laser scan that year, the first time HES have scanned a tree. This has helped to create a detailed 3D model which can be viewed digitally for years to come.

Sarah Franklin, Landscape Manager at HES, said:

“The Beauly Elm was an iconic cultural asset and piece of heritage in its own right. Whilst a sad loss, its story has been able to live on thanks to our digital documentation and with the preservation of some pieces of the timber gifted to the local community and some kept within the HES collections.

With the planting of these elm saplings, we hope to continue the legacy of the Beauly Elm, creating a new piece of living archaeology for future generations to experience and enjoy.”

Dr Max Coleman, Science Communicator at RBGE, said:

“The one-year-old Wych elm sapling that we are planting today is the offspring of mature elms in the Scottish Borders which somehow survived this devastating disease. Our scientists and horticulturists at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh selectively bred seedlings from these super survivors and our hope is that the young tree will inherit these beneficial traits from its parents and, in time, replace the original Beauly elm.

This innovative work is part of RBGE’s three-year Scottish Plant Recovery project, funded by the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, to restore ten threatened Scottish plant species including wych elms, crab apples, the fern oblong woodsia and the colourful alpine blue-sow-thistle."

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity and a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) sponsored and supported through Grant-in-Aid by the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate (ENFOR).

The Scottish Plant Recovery project is part of the Scottish Government’s Net Zero Scotland Nature Restoration Fund programme with NatureScot.

NatureScot is the lead public body responsible for advising Scottish Ministers on all matters relating to the natural heritage.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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For further information, please contact:

Laura Ely
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
07721 959 962