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Japanese Zelkova

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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Zelkova serratta
FAMILY: Ulmaceae

This tree in Colorado Want an elm but not the problems of an elm? Consider a zelkova. This is one of the trees few people hear about. It has the characteristics of an elm but not the insect and disease problems. Tolerant of heat, drought, wind and urban conditions.

Hardiness Zone 5 to 8.

Growth rate Moderate. The varieties are fast growing.

Growth habit Tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and will take street pollution but prefers deep, fertile, and moist but well-drained soils . They do need at least one-half a day of sun and are more vigorous in full sun.

Foliage Rough dark green, 2-5” oval leaves with serrated margins that turn orange-brown or red in the fall.

Fruit Inconspicuous flowers in spring and very small drupe or fruit in the fall.

Bark Rough glabrous bark.

Landscape value This tree is an excellent replacement for the American elm. One of the best uses of the zelkova is as a street tree. Use it where an elm shape is desired. Its growth is upward and the lower branches do not get in the way of people or cars. It grows as a vase shape in its early years and then becomes more spreading. Its upright spreading habit makes it an excellent choice for a wide lawn tree.

Varieties Native to Japan, Korea, northeast Turkey, the Caucasus, northern Iran. There are a six species of zelkova. Serrata, the Japanese zelkova is the most common. Zelkova carpinfolia, Caucasian elm is the other most popular. The two most popular varieties are Green Vase and Village Green. Green Vase has a more pronounced vase shape. It is probably the best zelkova. Village Green is slightly more pest resistant; rusty red fall color. A new variety is Illinois Hardy. This variety is more cold resistant.

Photo credits
University of Oregon Horticulture Department