Zelkova serrata

Zelkovia serrata (340)

Common names:

  • Japanese Elm

Location in the Gardens:

Season of interest:

  • Autumn:
    • ornamental - leaf colour - yellow, orange and red
  • Winter:
    • deciduous, grown as a specimen it is shapely throughout its life
    • a regular, vase-shaped silhouette, short straight trunk, up-sweeping branches
    • twigs fine and reddish, mature bark flaky browns and orange
  • Summer:
    • dark green, clean foliage - an excellent shade tree

Description of plant:

Deciduous tree (See winter interest for shape.)

Size - grows quickly when young but slows with age. Height: up to 20m (65') or more. Spread: up to 18.3m (60')

Monoecious - (see photographs) small insignificant flowers in late April or May and later small fruit - green triangular drupe.

Leaves (6) alternating, 5cm long and broad, simple oval to oblong-ovate with a pointed curved tip (apiculate or acuminate) and an asymmetric slightly heart-shaped base (sub-chordate), pinnate veining (characteristics of the elm family) and serrated leaf margins. The leaves are rough on top and smooth (glabrous) or nearly so underneath.

There are two variants (6):

  • Z.s. var. serrata - grows in Japan and mainland E. Asia
  • Z.s. var. tarokoensis Li - grows in Taiwan (smaller leaves, less deep serrations)

Ideal growing conditions and habitat:

Fully hardy, preferring some shelter but in full sun. Ideally likes deep, moist, well drained fertile soil; but, found to be 'urban tolerant' i.e. poor soil, varying pH, wind, air pollution and drought.

Has been a recent introduction to New York City as a street tree.

NB Has a resistance to Dutch Elm Disease (Ceratocystis ulmi)

Country of origin:

  • East Asian mainland (China, Manchuria, Korea), Taiwan and Japan

Other interesting information:

The Zelkova is used as a symbol by a number of Japanese cities and administrative areas.

In 1989 the Korean Forest Service conducted a tree survey and statistically it was found that in the 500 year old or more category most of the trees were Zelkovas.

As with other trees in the Elm family Zelkova produces good, patterned grain hardwood used in furniture, construction/posts and by the Japanese to make taiko drums.

Zelkovia serrata (744)

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