Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Zelkova Carpinifolia

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Zelkova carpinifolia (08/09/2012, Kew Garden, London)

Zelkova carpinifolia (08/09/2012, Kew Garden, London)

Position: Full sun

Flowering period: Mid spring

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 35m

Eventual Spread: 20m

Hardiness: 5a – 10a

Family: Ulmaceae

Zelkova carpinifolia is a long lived, medium/ large deciduous tree with a distinctive vase shape and short trunk.  Its dark green leaves are alternate, eliptic with crenate margins, up to 10cm long and 6cm broad. Its leaves turn golden orange before they fall in autumn. Its branches are nearly erect in habit. Its trunk may achieve a diameter of up to 2m. Its bark is gray and sometimes peels off in flakes. Its green flowers are inconspicuous and wind pollinated. Its fruit is a nutlet and up to 8mm in diameter.

Zelkova carpinifolia Leaf (08/09/2012, Kew Garden, London)

Zelkova carpinifolia Leaf (08/09/2012, Kew Garden, London)

Zelkova carpinifolia, commonly known as the Caucasian Zelkova, Cauucasian Elm or Ironwood, is native to the Caucasus. This tree was introduced into the UK in 1760, into the paddock at Kew Garden, London. This tree is classified as Near Threatened according to the IUCN Red List.

The etymological root of the binomial name Zelkova is derived from the Caucasian name for this tree ‘tselkwa’. Carpinifolia is derived from Carpinus the name of another genus of tree and folium meaning ‘leaf’.

The landscape architect may find Zelkova carpinifolia useful as an interesting parkland tree, with its distinctive habit and attractive autumn color.

Zelkova carpinifolia Bark (08/09/2012, Kew Garden, London)

Zelkova carpinifolia Bark (08/09/2012, Kew Garden, London)

Ecologically, Zelkova carpinifolia seed is attractive to some mammals and birds.

Zelkova carpinifolia prefers moist, humus rich, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

Zelkova carpinifolia requires little maintenance.

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