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Zelkova serrata

(Japanese Grey-Bark Elm)


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Interesting Facts

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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Chinese:

Ju Shu

Common Names in English:

Japanese Grey-Bark Elm, Japanese Zelkova, Keyaki, Saw-Leaf Zelkova, Water-Elm

Common Names in Japanese:



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Family Ulmaceae

Trees or shrubs , evergreen or deciduous. Winter buds with scales , rarely naked; axillary buds developed; terminal bud usually dying back early. Stipules usually membranous, caducous . Leaves simple , alternate or rarely opposite, usually distichous, petiolate ; leaf blade pinnately veined, basally 3(or 5) -veined, margin entire or serrate. Inflorescences axillary . Flowers monochlamydeous , bisexual , or rarely unisexual or polygamous. Perianth lobes 4-9, imbricate or rarely valvate , persistent or caducous. Stamens usually equal in number to and opposite perianth lobes, opposite, basally adnate to tepals; filaments distinct ; anthers 2-celled, longitudinally fissured . Pistil 2-carpellate; ovary superior, 1(or 2) -loculed; ovule 1, suspended, anatropous ; integuments 2. Style very short; stigmas 2, linear . Fruit samara, drupes, or winged nutlets , apically usually with persistent stigmas. Endosperm scanty or absent; embryo erect , curved , or involute ; cotyledons flat, curved, or flexed. Seedling epigeous.

About 16 genera and ca. 230 species: widespread in temperate and tropical areas; eight genera (one endemic) and 46 species (23 endemic) in China.

Recent research strongly suggests that the subfamily Celtidoideae (Aphananthe, Celtis, Gironniera, Pteroceltis, and Trema) is not the closest relative of the subfamily Ulmoideae (Hemiptelea, Ulmus, and Zelkova) . It would probably be more accurate to exclude Celtidoideae from Ulmaceae, and move it to Cannabaceae, rather than treating it as a separate family , Celtidaceae. More data are needed before a stable, new classification of the Urticales can be produced . Until these data are available, it is more practical to retain the traditional circumscription of Ulmaceae.

Most species of this family yield fine timber, the cortex is a good substitute for hemp , the fruit are edible, and the seed oil is used medicinally and industrially. Many species of Ulmaceae are cultivated, and it is not always certain whether specimens are from wild or cultivated plants .[1]

Genus Zelkova

Trees , deciduous. Branchlets never spinose , never corky or winged . Stipules 2, free , linear-lanceolate, caducous , leaving a short transverse scar on each side of leaf base . Leaves distichous, margin serrate to crenate ; venation pinnate; secondary veins extending to margin, each ending in a tooth . Flowers appearing at same time as leaves, polygamous. Male flowers: clustered in proximal leaf axil of young branchlets. Perianth campanulate , 4-6(or 7) -lobed. Stamens equal in number to perianth lobes; filaments short, erect . Female and bisexual flowers: usually solitary or rarely 2-4-clustered in distal leaf axil of young branchlets. Perianth 4-6-parted, tepals imbricate. Staminodes absent or rarely developed. Ovary sessile; ovule pendulous, slightly amphitropous . Style excentric. Drupes oblique , dorsally keeled ; endocarp hard; perianth persistent; stigmas beak-shaped. Seed slightly compressed , apex concave ; endosperm absent; embryo curved ; cotyledons broad, apically slightly notched to 2-lobed. 2n = 28.

Five species: E and SW Asia, SE Europe; three species (two endemic) in China.[2]

Physical Description

Species Zelkova serrata

Trees , to 30 m tall, d.b.h. to 1 m, deciduous. Bark grayish white to grayish brown, exfoliating. Branchlets brownish purple to brown, pubescent or glabrescent . Winter buds conic-ovoid to ovoid . Stipules brownish purple, lanceolate, 7-9 mm. Petiole 2-6 mm, pubescent; leaf blade elliptic to ovate-lanceolate, 3-10 × 1.5-5 cm, papery to thickly papery, glabrous or abaxially sparsely pubescent along veins, adaxially sparsely hispid , base slightly oblique , rounded , or shallowly cordate, margin serrate to crenate , apex caudate-acuminate; secondary veins 9-15 on each side of midvein . Male flowers: shortly pedicellate , ca. 3 mm in diam. Perianth (5 or) 7(or 8) -parted to middle . Female flowers: subsessile , ca. 1.5 mm in diam. Perianth 4- or 5(or 6) -parted. Ovary pubescent. Drupes pea green, subsessile, 2.5-3.5 mm in diam., surface covered by an irregular network of low ridges . Fl. Apr, fr. Sep-Nov. 2n = 28. [source]

ID Features: Short main trunk and low branching. Vase-shaped habit. Slender twigs with small dark, conical buds in a zigzag pattern. Smooth bark with lenticels or exfoliating in patches to reveal orange. inner bark.

Habit: A medium-sized vase-shaped deciduous shrub with a rounded and broad crown when mature . Main branching starts low creating a short trunk .

Flowers: Not ornamental . Blooms in April. • Bloom Period: January, February. • Flower Color: green

Seeds: Fruit: A small drupe. Not ornamentally important.

Foliage: Summer foliage: Alternately arranged deciduous leaves. Simple leaves. Margins toothed . Elliptical shape . Acuminate leaf tip . 1.25" to 3" long. 0.75" to 1.5" wide. Dark green color. • Fall foliage: Fall color is variable. A mix or yellow, russet, bronze, dark red and purple. Can be quite showy on good specimens.


Size: 50' to 70' tall, 30' wide.


Landscape Uses: Lawn tree . Urban areas. Possibly a street tree. Parks and campuses. For attractive bark characteristics. For vase-shape. • Liabilities: Twig dieback due to lack of cold hardiness . Japanese beetle feeding on foliage . Shows fairly good resistance to Dutch Elm Disease and bacterial canker ,. but not immune. • Care: Resistant to Dutch Elm Disease .


Valleys, beside streams ; 500-2000 m. Anhui, Fujian, Gansu (Qin Ling), N Guangdong, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Liaoning (Dalian), Shaanxi (Qin Ling), Shandong, Sichuan, Taiwan, Zhejiang [Japan, Korea, Russia (Kuril Islands)]. [source]

Zone 5.

Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 888 meters (0 to 2,913 feet).[3]


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Culture: Full sun . Prefers well-drained, moist, deep, fertile soil. Relatively tolerant of drought and pollution once established . Tolerant of a range of soils pHs. Easy to transplant and establish. Needs room to develop wide crown.

Soil: Minimum pH: 4.5 • Maximum pH: 7.5

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full or part sun.

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b. (map)


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Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 15-Mar-2000

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Zelkova

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 22 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

Z. carpinifolia (Caucasian Elm) · Z. schneideriana (Schneider Zelkova) · Z. serrata (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata var. Musasino (Japanese Zelkova) · Z. serrata 'Aurea' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Autumn Glow' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Goblin' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Goshiki' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Green Vase' (Green Vase Japanese Zelkova) · Z. serrata 'Green Veil' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Halka' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Illinois Hardy' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Low Weeper' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Musashino' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Nire' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Ogon' (Japanese Zelkova 'ogon') · Z. serrata 'Parkview' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Spring Grove' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Variegata' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Village Green' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. serrata 'Wireless' (Japanese Grey-Bark Elm) · Z. sinica (Chinese Zelkova)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 21, 2007:



  1. Liguo Fu, Yiqun Xin & Alan Whittemore "Ulmaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 5 Page 1. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. Liguo Fu, Yiqun Xin & Alan Whittemore "Zelkova". in Flora of China Vol. 5 Page 10. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  3. Mean = 145.560 meters (477.559 feet), Standard Deviation = 215.600 based on 18 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-05-14