Ulmus × hollandica 'Serpentina'

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Ulmus × hollandica cultivar
Ulmus hollandica 'Serpentina'.jpg
Hybrid parentage U. glabra × U. minor
Cultivar 'Serpentina'

The putative hybrid cultivar Ulmus × hollandica 'Serpentina' is an elm of unknown provenance and doubtful status. Henry identified it as intermediate between U. glabra and U. minor,[1] a view accepted by Bean[2] and by Melville, who believed that the specimens at Kew bearing the name 'Serpentina' were U. glabra introgressed by U. carpinifolia [: U. minor] and were similar to but "distinct from 'Camperdownii'".[3]

Koch had listed an U. serpentina in 1872,[4] and an U. montana [: U. glabra] serpentina was marketed in the 19th century by the Späth nursery in Berlin[5] and by the Ulrich nursery in Warsaw.[6] In Späth catalogues between 1902 and 1920, however, though 'Serpentina' appears, 'Camperdownii' is absent; by 1930 'Camperdownii' appears but 'Serpentina' is absent. This suggests that 'Serpentina' may have been a continental name for 'Camperdownii', and that Späth dropped the name 'Serpentina' c.1930 in favour of 'Camperdownii'. Elwes and Henry's failure to mention the serpentining branches of 'Camperdownii' may have contributed to the impression of two different trees. In this they were followed by Bean (1925),[7] Green (1964), Hillier (1972– 2002),[8] Krüssmann (1976),[9] and White (2003),[10] the first four of whom, like Elwes and Henry, list 'Serpentina' as a cultivar distinct from 'Camperdownii'.

The ultimate form of 'Camperdownii' depends on such factors as latitude and location, on what part of the parent tree the cuttings come from, on the 'stock' on which it is grafted, and on possible continuing mutation. Specimens may therefore vary in form,[11] which might account for Henry and Melville's "hybrid" 'Serpentina'.

Henry, quoting Koch, said that 'Serpentina' was sold in nurseries as the Parasol Elm,[1] which was distinguished from Ulmus campestris pendula by having larger leaves.[12] Both 'Serpentina' and the Scampston Elm were referred to as U. americana pendula.[13][14]


Henry (1913) described 'Serpentina' as a small tree with curved and twisted pendulous branches, a dense pyramidal or globose crown, and leaves and branchlets "similar to those of U. × hollandica 'Major'".[1][15] An U. serpentina was described in the journal Nature in 1918: "The branches are curiously contorted and reflexed, while all the shoots from one to three years old are pendulous rods, which, with the beautiful foliage, form an exterior covering reaching to the ground".[16] Krüssman, who listed a 'Serpentina' under U. glabra, described it (1984) as a weeping elm with "twisted corkscrew-like branches" and leaves "like those of U. 'Camperdownii'". Like Henry, he makes no mention of contorted branching in his description of 'Camperdowni'.[17]

Pests and diseases[edit]

A specimen of an elm called 'Serpentina' at the Ryston Hall [2], Norfolk, arboretum [18] obtained from the Späth nursery before 1914, was killed by the earlier strain of Dutch elm disease prevalent in the 1930s.


In addition to the Kew and Ryston specimens, a tree called 'Serpentina' was planted in 1897 at the Dominion Arboretum, Ottowa, Canada.[19] Two of the three specimens supplied by the Späth nursery to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1902 as U. montana serpentina (see External links below), now assumed by the Garden to have been 'Camperdownii', may survive in Edinburgh, as it was the practice of the Garden to distribute trees about the city (viz. the Wentworth Elm);[20] the current list of Living Accessions held in the Garden per se does not list the plant.[21] The Garden, significantly, had no separate accession record for its 'Camperdownii', a sizeable tree by the 1970s but felled by the 1980s, suggesting that this was one of the three U. montana serpentina sent by Späth in 1902.[22]

Elms called 'Serpentina' may still survive in Eastern Europe. A 'Serpentina' (Latvian: Parastā goba 'Serpantina') appears on a Latvian horticultural list,[23] and a Russian list contains separate entries for 'Camperdownii' and 'Serpentina'.[24] The introduction of a 'Serpentina' to Australasia has not been recorded.

Notable trees[edit]

The journal Nature reported in July 1918 "a remarkable elm of the variety known as Ulmus serpentina, apparently about sixty years old, vigorously growing in a Croydon garden".[16]

A 1920 photograph taken at Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, showing a weeping tree, is captioned Ulmus scabra [: U. glabra] Serpentina.[25]

A tree that stands (2016) in Jevington, Sussex, planted to commemorate the end of the First World War, is described in surviving notes from the time as a 'Serpentine Elm', brought back from Berlin in 1913 by Captain Loftus Henry Canton of the parish, and after the War planted in the churchyard.[26][27][28] However, no tree under the name of 'Serpentina' or similar appears in the accessions list of the Brighton & Hove City Council's NCCPG elm collection [3].




  1. ^ a b c Elwes, Henry John; Henry, Augustine (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland. 7. p. 1884. 
  2. ^ Bean, W. J. (1981). Trees and shrubs hardy in Great Britain, 7th edition. Murray, England
  3. ^ Green, Peter Shaw (1964). "Registration of cultivar names in Ulmus". Arnoldia. Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. 24 (6–8): 41–80. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  4. ^ Koch, Dendrologie, 2, pt.1, p.417
  5. ^ Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh accessions list of 1902.
  6. ^ Ulrich, C. (1894), Katalog Drzew i Krezewow, C. Ulrich, Rok 1893-94, Warszawa
  7. ^ Bean, W. J. (1925) Trees and shrubs hardy in Great Britain, 4th edition, Murray, London
  8. ^ Harold Hillier, The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs (1972; revised to 2002)
  9. ^ Krüssman, Gerd, Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees & Shrubs (1976, trans 1984 vol. 3)
  10. ^ J. White, D. More, Cassell's Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland (London 2003)
  11. ^ Information from RBGE.
  12. ^ "Methods of propagation (the limes and elms)". The Gardeners' chronicle. 19: 699. 1896. 
  13. ^ Koch, Karl (1872). Dendrologie; Bäume, Sträucher und Halbsträucher, welche in Mittel- und Nord- Europa im Freien kultivirt werden. 2. p. 417. 
  14. ^ Anthony waterer's catalogue. 1880. p. 20. 
  15. ^ Hilliers' Manual of Trees & Shrubs. (1977). David & Charles, Newton Abbot, UK.
  16. ^ a b Shrubsole, W.H. (11 July 1918). "Weeping Forms of Elm". Nature. 101: 365. doi:10.1038/101365b0. 
  17. ^ Krüssman, Gerd, Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees & Shrubs (1984 vol. 3)
  18. ^ Ryston Hall Arboretum catalogue. c. 1920. pp. 13–14. 
  19. ^ Catalogue of the trees and shrubs in the arboretum and botanic gardens at the central experimental farm (2 ed.). 1899. p. 76. 
  20. ^ Accessions book. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. 1902. pp. 45,47. 
  21. ^ "List of Living Accessions: Ulmus". Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  22. ^ Photographs of the RBGE tree in Krüssman (1984) and in Clouston & Stansfield, After the Elm (1979)
  23. ^ dārzkopības portāls: Parastā goba 'Serpantina' , accessdate: August 19, 2016
  24. ^ Ulmus glabra 'Serpantina' [:Serpentina], zalenieki.lv/ru/lapu-koki-un-krumi?sortby=T-U
  25. ^ molenzicht.net, Treurbomen. Slangvormige treuriep (Ulmus Scabra Serpentina) in den Hortus te Leiden, accessdate: August 19, 2016
  26. ^ Johnson, O. (1998). The Sussex Tree Book. Pomegranate Press, ISBN 0-9533493-0-6
  27. ^ The Jevington churchyard elm, seafordnaturalhistory.org.uk [1]
  28. ^ Jevington Elm, flickr.com/photos/debbcollins/3528768312/in/photostream/ flickr.com/photos/debbcollins/3528762710/in/photostream/

External links[edit]