Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Zelkova Serrata

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Zelkova serrata (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Zelkova serrata (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 25m

Eventual Spread: 15m

Hardiness: 5a – 9b

Family: Ulmaceae

Zelkova serrata is a medium sized deciduous tree with a vase shaped habit whilst young, maturing to a rounded head.  Its dark green leaves are alternate, ovate with crenate margins, rough on the upper surface, up to 7cm long and 4cm broad. Its leaves turn yellow/ orange before they fall in autumn. Its branches are upright in habit. Its trunk is usually short. Its young bark is smooth and grey with pronominal lenticels, as this tree matures its bark exfoliates to expose orange inner bark. Its yellow/ green flowers are inconspicuous, appear in the leaf axils and wind pollinated. Its fruit is a wingless drupe, up to 3.5mm in diameter, initially green, maturing to a brown colour.

Zelkova serrata Autumn Leaf (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Zelkova serrata Autumn Leaf (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Zelkova serrata, commonly known as the Japanese Zelcova, Japanese Grey-Bark Elm, Keaki or Keyaki, is native to Japan, eastern China, Korea and Taiwan. This tree was introduced into the UK in 1861.

The etymological root of the binomial name Zelkova is derived from the Caucasian name for this tree ‘tselkwa’. Serrata is derived from the Latin serratus meaning ‘saw’, in reference to the leaf margins of this tree.

The landscape architect may find Zelkova serrata useful as a street tree or parkland tree. This tree is tolerant of urban conditions.

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

Zelkova serrata Bark (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Zelkova serrata Bark (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

The Royal Horticultural Society has given Zelkova serrata their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Zelkova serrata prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

Zelkova serrata requires little maintenance.

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