National Elm Collection

English Elm at Preston Park

Brighton & Hove has always had a high population of Elm trees and currently has over 17,000. These were originally planted in large numbers by the Victorians and Edwardians. This was because of the trees' tolerance to the thin chalk soil and salty winds.

There is a wide variety of Elms around the city, most notably at Preston Park, Shirley Drive, Carden Hill and The Level. These sites include many species such as English, Jersey and Cornish Elms.

The 'Preston Twins'

The 'Preston Twins', pictured below, are located at Preston Park and widely considered the largest and oldest surviving English Elms in Europe. They are also home to a colony of elm-dependent White-letter Hairstreak butterflies, a species which has been on the decline in areas that have suffered with Elm Disease.

This endangered species lives mainly in the treetops, and they are entirely reliant on the elm for food.


Preston Twins at Preston Park

The Level

There is a large and nationally-important collection of elms at The Level.  The trees, which frame the perimeter of the park, also (like Preston Park) support a colony of White-letter Hairstreak butterflies.

The wildlife of The Level, and the elms in particular, feature heavily in the education elements of the park's community volunteer-led activities plan.


In the early 1970s the council introduced a new programme to control a highly infectious form of Elm disease which was introduced by imported Rock Elm from North America. The success of the programme to fight the disease is still clear today from the many thousands of Elms throughout the city.

In 1998, due to the success of the local Elm disease control programme, the city was granted full National Collection status by Plant Heritage.

The Arboricultural Service

The Arboricultural Service (the council's tree specialists) remain committed to containing Elm disease and extending the range of trees in the National Collection. They do this by safeguarding the mature Elm trees and at the same time, seek to extend the range of species as they become available.

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