Monday, October 27, 2008


It occurs to me this autumn that I have been selling Zelkova serrata, or Japanese zelkova, short when I teach it to students. I never make a note of its fall color and as you can see here, it's fall color is radiant.

(sorry that this is a bit fuzzy -- I took these shots early this morning and now, with our diminishing daylight, it's hard to get a flash-less photo!)

For a time, people thought zelkovas may be the best replacement for the American elm, which was slowly dying out due to Dutch Elm Disease. If you read Dirr's entry on this plant, you can see that he's passionate about the zelkova's potential and at the same steadfast in that no plant, no matter how lovely, could ever replace Ulmus americana.

The two trees are related -- both are in the elm, or Ulmaceae, family. The vase shape you see above is common to plants in this family, as is an asymmetrical leaf base.

Here's a shot of the very distinctive bark. Zelkovas have smooth gray bark and, as the tree ages, the base of the bark has blisters, exposing a cinnamon-colored inner layer.

The wood on zelkova is quite hard and has been used to make furniture in places where the tree occurs naturally. Zelkova's name, as you may have guessed, is not derivative of Latin or Greek. Instead it is from Caucasian name for the tree, dzelkva. Dzel- means bar, and kva means rock, indicating that the rock-hard wood can be used as a bar in construction.

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