A 100ft TREE which began its life in 1845 has seen its final day as work began to chop it down this week.

The Caucasian Wingnut tree, located at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens near Weymouth, is listed by the Forestry Commission as a Champion Tree of Great Britain.

The unusual tree started its life as a seed in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains.

But sadly for the thousands of people who flock to the park every year the famous tree won’t be a feature because it is riddled with rot and must be felled.

Work started on Thursday, but it is estimated to take surgeons up to six days to remove the 100ft tree.

Using a technique called picus sonic tomography, electronic sensors plugged into the trunk showed that the tree is rotten to the core.

A well has been formed at the top of the trunk, where the branches reach out, collecting water which seeps into the trunk. It also has its roots in a nearby stream.

John Houston, general manager of Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, said: ‘It is a sad moment for us but the safety of our visitors and staff is paramount so we have no choice but to fell the tree.

“One silver lining to this cloud is that the tree will make way for stunning views right across to the palm trees of the Victorian Garden.

“It will also let in a lot more light for the flowering camellias which grow underneath the tree.”

The tree, for which the Latin name is Pterocarya fraxinifolia, is believed to be one of the first introductions of its kind to this country. It was brought to Dorset by the first Earl of Ilchester, William Fox Strangways, an international diplomat who was very passionate about plant collecting.

He collected plants on his travels and almost certainly brought seeds back from the Caucasus Mountains – which give the tree its name – Caucasian Wingnut.

The Earl also planted a sister tree, which stood at his family home, Melbury House near Dorchester.

Just before Christmas, that tree split right down the middle, sparking fears for the safety of the Abbotsbury tree.

Once the tree is felled, the timber will be stored and then treated to make firewood, as this type of wood is unsuitable for other uses, such as carving or building.

Stephen Griffith, who has been Curator of Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens for the past 22 years, said: "We’re sad to say farewell to the tree because it has been a landmark for decades and it is part of the great heritage of Abbotsbury village."