|Zelkova serrata from UConn database|
It is a shade tree that has been widely planted to replace the elms lost long ago in our cities. You have them all over newer neighborhoods and planted up and down urban streets. But almost no one knows the name.
It doesn't have a common name, for some reason. Zelkova is the genus name and it sure doesn't roll off the tongue.
Zelkova serrata is vase shaped, like American elms. But to my eye they lack the grace and proportion of elms. They don't even come close to being a replacement for what we lost when all the elms succumbed to Dutch elm disease.
But they are a nice enough lawn tree, very tough, not bothered by much. Fall color can be eye catching (see the New York City trees in Marie's post at 66 Square Feet). Older trees have patchy, peeling orange bark that is really interesting. I have not planted one, but there are several at the end of our street.
In the October snow storm here they suffered damage, but being tough survivors, they will be okay. What was so funny was the pattern of damage, which was identical in each tree: every zelkova dropped two branches down around its knees, creating a little skirt. Just two limbs, no more.
A pair of branches snapped from the center of each tree and then carefully draped themselves around the naked trunk.
One young zelkova cracked up and completely split apart, but all the others (5 of them in total), did this identical thing and as a group they look like they were seized with a fit of modesty and had to cover up. Trees do funny things.
They are wonderfully resilient growers and will look just fine next season. Someone will have to remove the two branches dangling around each tree's trunk, but in the end, I think they look better pruned this way a little bit.
I just hope these modest trees aren't too embarrassed to have their skirts removed.