Ulmus glabra 'Superba'

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Ulmus glabra 'Superba'
Ulmus montana superba. Morren (1848).jpg
Leaf-drawing (1848) of Osborne and Morren's 'Superba', leaves to 26 × 15  cm.[1]
SpeciesUlmus glabra

The putative Wych Elm cultivar Ulmus glabra 'Superba' was first described in 1848 by Morren, as U. montana var. superba, an elm with unusually large leaves. Morren had adopted the name 'Superba' from the Fulham nurseryman Osborne in 1844, who supplied him with the tree.[1] Morren states that 'Superba', already in cultivation in England, was introduced to Belgium by Denis Henrard of Saint Walburge, Liège, that in 1848 it had been present in Belgium for only three years,[1] and that this variety was the one described as 'Superba' by Osborne, whom Henrard had visited at his nursery in Fulham in September 1844.[2] Gill's of Blandford distributed an U. montana superba at much the same time – from 1845 – known to some nurseries as Blandford Elm,[3] with large leaves of the same dimensions.[4]

The Späth nursery in Berlin supplied a large-leaved[5] U. montana superba from 1885[6] to the 1930s.[5][7] H. Jensen[note 1] examined the tree at Späth's nursery and confirmed (1912) that it was identical to Morren's Ulmus montana superba.[8] Späth's catalogue of 1911–12, however, had erroneously claimed that a U. praestans E. Schoch was synonymous with Morren's U. montana superba.[9] Hartwig, who received specimens of U. praestans from Kiessling of the Magdeburg city nursery in 1908, said (1912) that "Ulmus montana superba, supposedly the same [as U. praestans], looks quite different when young, being wide with large, broad, dull green leaves, whereas ... U. praestans show an elongated medium-sized shiny green leaf and densely pyramidal crown". He concluded that U. praestans was not Ulmus montana superba.[10] Späth admitted the error in an article in Möller's Deutsche Gärtner-Zeitung (1912),[11] where he stated that U. praestans E. Schoch was a U. × hollandica hybrid, and implied that Morren's tree was a form of U. montana (Wych Elm). In later catalogues the nursery distinguished between Morren's Ulmus montana superba and the hybrid U. praestans E. Schoch (for which he adopted Henry's synonym Ulmus superba Henry), marketing both cultivars in the post-war period.[7]

Though Loudon in his description (1838) of Canterbury Elm, Ulmus montana glabra major, had made no reference to large leaves,[12][13] Boulger tentatively (1881)[14] and Green more confidently (1964)[15] equated Canterbury Elm with Morren's U. montana var. superba, a synonym not included in Rehder's lists (1915 & 1949).[16][17] Loudon's description of a fast-growing hybrid like Huntingdon Elm, holding its leaves late, does, however, match descriptions of U. × hollandica 'Superba' and U. praestans.

'Superba' was confirmed by Krüssmann in 1962 as a cultivar,[18][15] though Krüssmann regarded Osborne and Morren's tree as the same as U. × hollandica 'Superba' and U. praestans.[19]


Descriptions of 'Superba' cultivars vary, as do herbarium specimens, confirming that more than one clone has been given the name. Osborne and Morren's Ulmus montana superba has very large wych-like leaves, to 26 by 15 cm, with a tapering tip to 3–4 cm long.[2] Gill's 'Superba' likewise has very large leaves, 10 in (25 cm) long by 6 in (15 cm) wide.[4] The matching measurements and dates suggest that Osborne and Morren's, and Gill's, trees were the same clone. An 1880 herbarium specimen showing a large-leaved Wych Elm cultivar at Kew Gardens, labelled U. montana superba, has dimensions similar to those given by Morren and Gill.[herb 1] The Ulmus 'Superba', 'Blandford Elm', in the 1902 catalogue of the Bobbink and Atkins nursery, Rutherford, New Jersey, was described as "a noble tree of large size and quick growth", with "large dark green foliage and smooth, grayish bark" (presumably in young specimens).[20]

Pests and diseases[edit]

No cultivar called 'Superba' is noted to have any resistance to Dutch elm disease.


An 1880 Kew Gardens herbarium specimen, from one of the arboretum's own trees, labelled U. montana var. Superba and matching Morren's description, suggests that Osborne's tree was present at Kew.[herb 1] Ulmus 'Superba', 'Blandford Elm', with "foliage large and dark green" and "bark smooth and dark grayish", appeared in the 1902 and 1909 catalogues of the Bobbink and Atkins nursery, Rutherford, New Jersey,[20][21] and in Kelsey's 1904 catalogue, New York.[22] The absence of Späth's names from the Bobbink and Atkins and the Kelsey lists and their use of 'Blandford Elm' suggest that the cultivar came from England and was Gill's clone. Given Späth's naming error, it is not certain that one planting of U. montana superba at the Dominion Arboretum, Ottawa, Canada, in 1896 (probably sourced from Späth),[23] was Osborne and Morren's clone, rather tha the hybrid 'Superba'. Mid 20th-century herbarium specimens from the Wageningen Aboretum show a wych elm cultivar "formerly labelled Ulmus × hollandica 'Superba'".[herb 2][herb 3][herb 4]

A cultivar listed in 2008 as Ulmus × hollandica 'Blandford' by the Urban Forestry Administration of the District Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., as one of its 'street trees', is likely to have been Blandford Elm misnamed as a hybrid, or hybrid 'Superba' misnamed 'Blandford'.[24]

Putative specimens in the UK[edit]

A 'Superba' is not on any accessions list of identified surviving trees in the UK, save the specimen maintained as part of a low hedge at Wakehurst Place – possibly, however, a cutting from the hybrid Ottawa 'Superba' from Späth planted in 1896,[25] rather than Morren's clone.[6][23] However, three putative specimens of the latter grow in the UK. An old example of what appears to be the same clone as the 1880 Kew large-leaved 'Superba' survives (2017) on Leith Links, Edinburgh, and two more in Sussex, in Hove Recreation Ground, and Easthill Park, Portslade.[note 2] The Edinburgh tree has Wych Elm samarae and short petioles, with no obvious evidence of hybridization.


Morren states that 'Superba' was so called "parce qu'en effet cette variété l'emporte sur les autres par sa beauté" [:because indeed this variety surpasses others in beauty].[1]


  1. ^ Possibly Holger Jensen, after whom 'Holgeri' was named.
  2. ^ Hove Recreation Ground, on the east perimeter of the park.

Herbarium Specimens[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Herbarium specimen - E00824742". Herbarium Catalogue. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Sheet described as U. montana var. superba (Kew Gardens specimen, 1880)
  2. ^ "Herbarium specimen - WAG.1846734". Botany catalogues. Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Sheet labelled Ulmus glabra Huds., formerly called 'Superba'
  3. ^ "Herbarium specimen - WAG.1846731". Botany catalogues. Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Sheet labelled Ulmus glabra Huds., formerly called 'Superba'
  4. ^ "Herbarium specimen - WAG.1846732". Botany catalogues. Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Sheet labelled Ulmus glabra Huds., formerly called 'Superba' (with samarae)


  1. ^ a b c d Morren, Charles (1848). "Notice sur l'Orme des montagnes". Journal D'Agriculture Pratique de Belgique. 1 (1): 411–414. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  2. ^ a b Henrard, D. (1845). Morren, Charles (ed.). "Sur un voyage fait en Engleterre et en Écosse". Annales de la Société royale d'agriculture et de botanique de Gand. 1: 155–168. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  3. ^ General catalogue, 1904 : choice hardy trees, shrubs, evergreens, roses, herbaceous plants, fruits, etc. New York: Frederick W. Kelsey. 1904. p. 18.
  4. ^ a b "New and splendid ornamental elm - Ulmus montana superba". The Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette: 670. 1845.
  5. ^ a b Katalog (PDF). 108. Berlin, Germany: L. Späth Baumschulenweg. 1902–1903. pp. 132–133.
  6. ^ a b Elwes, Henry John; Henry, Augustine (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland. 7. pp. 1873–1874. Republished 2004 Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9781108069380
  7. ^ a b Späth, Ludwig (1930). Späth-Buch, 1720-1930. Berlin: Self published. pp. 311–313, 351–352.
  8. ^ Beissner, Ludwig (1912). "Ulmus praestans". Mitteilungen der Deutschen Dendrologischen Gesellschaft. 21: 227.
  9. ^ Späth catalogue 1911/12, p.137
  10. ^ Hartwig, Karl Gustav (1913). "Ulmus praestans". Mitteilungen der Deutschen Dendrologischen Gesellschaft. 22: 302.
  11. ^ Spath, L (1912). "Ulmus praestans = U. montana superba". Möllers Deutsche Gärtner-Zeitung. 27 (15): 177. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  12. ^ Loudon, John Claudius (1838). Arboretum et fruticetum Britannicum. 3. p. 1404.
  13. ^ Hanham, F. (1857). A Manual for the Park (Royal Victoria Park, Bath). Longman, London.
  14. ^ Boulger, George Simonds (1881). McLaren, John (ed.). "On British Elms". Transactions of the Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society. Edinburgh. 9: 39. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  15. ^ a b Green, Peter Shaw (1964). "Registration of cultivar names in Ulmus". Arnoldia. Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. 24 (6–8): 41–80. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  16. ^ Rehder, Alfred (1915). "Neue order kritische Gehölze". Mitteilungen der Deutschen Dendrologischen Gesellschaft. 24: 215–219. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  17. ^ Rehder, Alfred. "Ulmaceae". Bibliography of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in the cooler temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts: The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. pp. 135–143. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  18. ^ Krüssmann, Gerd (1962). Handbuch der Laubgehölze. 2. p. 537.
  19. ^ Krüssmann, Gerd (1984). Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees & Shrubs. 3. p. 410.
  20. ^ a b Bobbink and Atkins, Rutherford. N.J. 1902. p. 51.
  21. ^ Bobbink and Atkins, Rutherford. N.J. 1909. p. 51.
  22. ^ General catalogue, 1904 : choice hardy trees, shrubs, evergreens, roses, herbaceous plants, fruits, etc. New York: Frederick W. Kelsey. 1904. p. 18.
  23. ^ a b Saunders, William; Macoun, William Tyrrell (1899). Catalogue of the trees and shrubs in the arboretum and botanic gardens at the central experimental farm (2 ed.). pp. 74–75.
  24. ^ "Urban Forestry Administration". District Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on 16 July 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  25. ^ "ePIC - Detailed results from Living collection for ulmus". epic.kew.org. Retrieved 2017-10-19.

External links[edit]