17th Jul, 2019

Elm trees planted on Droitwich nature reserve to remember Sean and bring more butterflies

A DROITWICH woman enlisted the help of her family to plant trees to help a scarce butterfly species in memory of her late husband, writes Bethany Lewis.

Yvonne O’Byrne contacted Worcestershire Wildlife Trust (WWT) as she wanted to commemorate Sean’s memory by helping the wildlife at the town’s Trench Wood nature reserve, in particular the White-letter Hairstreak.

The O’Byrne family worked with staff and volunteers from the WWT and Butterfly Conservation to plant 20 elm trees of two different varieties.

They were grown by Pershore Nurseries from trees resistant to Dutch elm disease.

The disease has killed millions of elm trees throughout Northern Europe due to the fungal infection transmitted by a bark beetle.

Elm is the only food plant eaten by the White-letter Hairstreak, which gets its name from the lines on it that resemble a white ‘W’.

A White-letter Hairstreak butterfly. Picture by Rosemary Winnall. s

Dom Cragg, the conservation officer responsible for the 100-acre reserve, said: “Since Dutch Elm disease took hold in the 1970s, numbers of white-letter hairstreak butterflies has plummeted.”

There were fears, following the extensive Dutch elm disease epidemic, the species could become extinct.

Dom added: “Not only is the planting of the elms a beautiful way to remember Sean for many years to come, it will also help this scarce butterfly to thrive.”

Daughter Eleanor O’Byrne. Picture by Mike Williams. s

Yvonne, who together with Sean has been a member of Worcestershire wildlife trust for more than 30 years, also dedicated a tree to Sean in the memorial orchard at Lower Smite Farm between Droitwich and Worcester.

Yvonne added: “Sean loved Trench Wood and enjoyed many happy walks there over the years.

“He would have been delighted to help restore elm trees to the wood, and the added bonus of increasing butterflies.

“The project is a lovely way for us to remember Sean as we watch the tree and butterflies flourish in future years.”

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