Japanese Zelkova – Zelkova serrata

Japanese Zelkova – Zelkova serrata
Family Ulmaceae – Zelkova, Hackberry, Elm

Species epithet serrata refers to the serrated leaf edges. A lovely shade tree by any measure.

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Japanese Zelkova

Japanese Zelkova is a large shade tree maturing at about 60' tall. It has an upright vase-shaped growth habit, hence the cultivar name "green vase." It has a rapid growth rate in youth, slowing during middle age. Grows best in full to partial sun, and prefers moist, well-drained, deep soil but is very adaptable and urban tolerant (especially to heat, drought, pollution, poor soils, and soils of various pH levels).

Even though a member of the Elm Family, it has no disease or pest problems of significance, including Dutch Elm Disease. Japanese Zelkova is very sensitive to being transplanted in autumn, and care should be taken to fertilize, water thoroughly, mulch adequately, and avoid salt aerosols.

Leaves: alternate, ovate, serrated to crenate margins, with a short acuminate tip and a base that is equal on both sides of the petiole. Dark green and clean summer foliage transitions to a very appealing mixture of yellow, gold, orange, burgundy, red, and wine fall color, in October and early November.

Flower: Monoecious; yellow-green, not showy, occur in tight clusters along new stems; appearing before the leaves. Fruit: A small triangular drupe, 1/6 inch long, green and later turning brown, maturing in mid to late summer. Twig: Very slender, zigzag, red-brown in color; buds are reddish brown, cone-shaped, pointed, and widely divergent. Bark: Smooth and red-brown to gray when young with numerous lenticels; remains smooth for many years but eventually exfoliates into small patches, reddish brown in color. Variants – Zelkova serrata 'Village Green' – more round-vased at maturity, to 45' tall by 40' wide, with wine-red fall color. [2]

Japanese Zelkova
This specimen was started from seed 53 years ago [1]
Japanese Zelkova Foliage

  1. Japanese Zelkova, Morton Arboretum accession 10-54-1, photos © Bruce Marlin
  2. The Morton Arboretum, Dutch Elm Disease
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Family Ulmaceae – Zelkovas, Hackberries and Elms
There are about 200 species of trees and shrubs in Ulmaceae. Elms fell victim to Dutch Elm disease during the 1950s; until that time, they were the premier shade tree along the streets of our American towns and cities. The Morton Arboretum in past years has bred and marketed five new elm varieties resistant to Dutch elm disease.
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