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Ulmus parvifolia

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Ulmus parvifolia
Chinese elm, Hilversum
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Ulmaceae
Genus: Ulmus
Subgenus: U. subg. Ulmus
Section: U. sect. Microptelea
U. parvifolia
Binomial name
Ulmus parvifolia
  • Microptelea parvifolia Spach
  • Planera parvifolia Sweet
  • Ulmus campestris var. chinensis Loudon
  • Ulmus chinensis Persoon
  • Ulmus parvifolia Maxim., Franch. et Savatier, Forbes & Hemsl., Shirasawa
  • Ulmus sieboldii Daveau
  • Ulmus virgata Roxburgh

Ulmus parvifolia, commonly known as the Chinese elm[2] or lacebark elm, is a species native to eastern Asia, including China, India, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.[3] It has been described as "one of the most splendid elms, having the poise of a graceful Nothofagus".[4]

The tree was introduced to the UK in 1794 by James Main, who collected in China for Gilbert Slater of Low Layton, Essex.[5][6]

Chinese elm as bonsai during spring growing season.


A small to medium deciduous or semideciduous (rarely semievergreen) tree, it grows to 10–18 m (33–59 ft) tall and 15–20 m (49–66 ft) wide with a slender trunk and crown. The leathery, lustrous green, single-toothed leaves are small, 2–5 cm long by 1–3 cm broad,[7] and often retained as late as December or even January in Europe and North America. The apetalous wind-pollinated perfect flowers are produced in early autumn, small and inconspicuous. The fruit is a samara, elliptical to ovate-elliptical, 10–13 mm long by 6–8 mm broad.[3] The samara is mostly glabrous, the seed at the centre or toward the apex, is borne on a stalk 1–3 mm in length; it matures rapidly and disperses by late autumn. The trunk has a handsome, flaking bark of mottled greys with tans and reds, giving rise to its other common name, the lacebark elm, although scarring from major branch loss can lead to large, canker-like wounds. Ploidy: 2n = 28.[6][8][9][10][11]

Many nurserymen and foresters mistakenly refer to Ulmus pumila, the rapidly growing, disease-ridden, relatively short-lived, weak-wooded Siberian elm, as "Chinese elm". This has given the true Chinese elm an undeserved bad reputation. The two elms are very distinct and different species. The Siberian elm's bark becomes deeply ridged and furrowed with age, among other obvious differences. It possesses a very rough, greyish-black appearance, while the Chinese elm's smooth bark becomes flaky and blotchy, exposing very distinctive, light-coloured mottling, hence the synonym lacebark elm for the real Chinese elm.[12]

Wood and timber[edit]

Elms, hickory, and ash all have remarkably hard, tough wood, making them popular for tool handles, bows, and baseball bats. Chinese elm is considered the hardest of the elms. Chinese elm is said to be the best of all woods for chisel handles and similar uses due to its superior hardness, toughness, and resistance to splitting. Chinese elm lumber is used most for furniture, cabinets, veneer, hardwood flooring, and specialty uses such as longbow construction and tool handles. Most commercially milled lumber goes directly to manufacturers rather than to retail lumber outlets.[citation needed]

Chinese elm heartwood ranges in tone from reddish-brown to light tan, while the sapwood approaches off-white. The grain is often handsome and dramatic. Unlike other elms, the freshly cut Chinese elm has a peppery or spicy odour. While it turns easily and will take a nice polish off the lathe without any finish, and it holds detail well, the fibrous wood is usually considered too tough for carving or hand tools. Chinese elm contains silica which is hard on planer knives and chainsaws, but it sands fairly easily. Like other woods with interlocking grain, planes should be kept extra sharp to prevent tearing at the grain margins. It steam-bends easily and holds screws well, but pilot holes and countersinking are needed. It tends to be a "lively" wood, tending to warp and distort while drying. This water-resistant wood easily takes most finishes and stains.[citation needed]


Subspecies, varieties, and forms:

Pests and diseases[edit]

The Chinese elm is highly resistant, but not immune, to Dutch elm disease. It is also very resistant to the elm leaf beetle Xanthogaleruca luteola, but has a moderate susceptibility to elm yellows.[13] In trials at the Sunshine Nursery, Oklahoma, the species was adjudged as having the best pest resistance of about 200 taxa [14] However, foliage was regarded as only "somewhat resistant" to black spot by the Plant Diagnostic Clinic of the University of Missouri.[15]

Cottony cushion scale or mealy bugs, often protected and "herded" by ants, exude sticky, sweet honeydew, which can mildew leaves and be a minor annoyance by dripping on cars and furniture. However, severe infestations on or obvious damage to otherwise healthy trees are uncommon.[citation needed]

In some regions of the Southern United States, a fungus known as Phymatotrichopsis omnivora is known to cause sudden death of lacebark elms when infected.[citation needed]


The Chinese elm is a tough landscape tree, hardy enough for use in harsh planting situations such as parking lots, small planters along streets, and plazas or patios. The tree is arguably the most ubiquitous elm, now found on all continents except Antarctica. It was introduced to Europe at the end of the 18th century as an ornamental and is found in many botanical gardens and arboreta.[16][17] It was introduced to the United States in 1794,[18] and has proved very popular in recent years as a replacement for American elms killed by Dutch elm disease. The tree was distributed in Victoria, Australia, from 1857.[19] At the beginning of the 20th century, Searl's Garden Emporium, in Sydney, marketed it.[citation needed] Three U. parvifolia were supplied in 1902 by Späth to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.[20][21] In New Zealand, it was found to be particularly suitable for windswept locations along the coast. The tree is commonly planted as an ornamental in Japan,[22] notably around Osaka Castle.

Ulmus parvifolia is one of the cold-hardiest of the Chinese species. In artificial freezing tests at the Morton Arboretum.[23] the LT50 (temp. at which 50% of tissues die) was found to be −34 °C (−29 °F).


Owing to its versatility and ability to tolerate a wide range of temperatures, light, and humidity conditions, the Chinese elm is a popular choice as a bonsai species. It is perhaps the single most widely available. It is considered a good choice for beginners because of its high tolerance of pruning.[24]


Numerous cultivars have been raised, mostly in North America:

Hybrid cultivars[edit]

It is an autumn-flowering species, whereas most other elms flower in the spring. Hybrids include:[citation needed]


North America


  1. ^ Lin, Q.; Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).; IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (2019). "Ulmus parvifolia". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T147481874A147620206. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T147481874A147620206.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Ulmus parvifolia Jacq.". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  3. ^ a b Fu, L., Xin, Y. & Whittemore, A. (2002). Ulmaceae, in Wu, Z. & Raven, P. (eds) Flora of China, Vol. 5 (Ulmaceae through Basellaceae). Science Press, Beijing, and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, USA; also available as Fu, L.; Xin, Y. & Whittemore, A. "Ulmus parvifolia". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  4. ^ Hilliers' Manual of Trees & Shrubs, 4th edition, 1977, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, England
  5. ^ Elwes, H. J. & Henry, A. (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland. Vol. VII. 1848–1929. Republished 2004 Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9781108069380
  6. ^ a b Bean, W. J. (1981). Trees and shrubs hardy in Great Britain, 7th edition. Murray, London.
  7. ^ "Herbarium specimen - E00824803". Herbarium Catalogue. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Ulmus parvifolia Jacq. (1909 specimen, Breslau)
  8. ^ White, J & More, D. (2003). Trees of Britain & Northern Europe. Cassell's, London.
  9. ^ "Chinese elm Ulmaceae Ulmus parvifolia". www.cnr.vt.edu. Archived from the original on 9 December 2000. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  10. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Ulmus pumila L.". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  11. ^ "SaylorPlants.com - Chinese Elm, Lacebark Elm ( Ulmus  parvifolia )". www.saylorplants.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  12. ^ Leopold, D. J. (1980). "Chinese and Siberian elms". Journal of Arboriculture. 6 (7): 175–179.
  13. ^ Mittempergher, L; Santini, A (2004). "The history of elm breeding" (PDF). Investigacion Agraria: Sistemas y Recursos Forestales. 13 (1): 161–177.
  14. ^ "greenbeam.com - Domain Name For Sale". Dan.com. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  15. ^ "Disease resistant and tolerant plant varieties, Plant Diagnostic Clinic, MU Extension". Archived from the original on 2008-09-20. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  16. ^ "Ulmus parvifolia Jacq. (1854) K000852632". Herbarium catalogue. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 17 October 2016.; "Ulmus parvifolia Jacq. (1867) K000852633". Herbarium catalogue. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 17 October 2016.; "Ulmus sieboldii Daveau (1913) K000852631". Herbarium catalogue. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  17. ^ Ryston Hall Arboretum catalogue. c. 1920. pp. 13–14.
  18. ^ "Missouri Botanical Garden bulletin". Archive.org. [St. Louis : Missouri Botanical Garden]. 29 March 1913. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  19. ^ "Trove". Trove.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  20. ^ Accessions book. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. 1902. pp. 45, 47.
  21. ^ "Herbarium specimen - E00824804". Herbarium Catalogue. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Ulmus parvifolia Jacq. (1902, Späth nursery); "Herbarium specimen - E00824805". Herbarium Catalogue. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Ulmus parvifolia Jacq. (1902, Späth); "Herbarium specimen - E00824802". Herbarium Catalogue. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Ulmus parvifolia Jacq. (1902, Späth)
  22. ^ Hishiyama, C. (Ed.). (2018). A picture book of (Japanese) trees,  p.81. (in Japanese). Seibidoshuppan, Japan. ISBN 9784415310183
  23. ^ Shirazi, A. M. & Ware, G. H. (2004). Evaluation of New Elms from China for Cold Hardiness in Northern Latitudes. International Symposium on Asian Plant Diversity & Systematics 2004, Sakura, Japan.
  24. ^ D'Cruz, Mark (11 February 2020). "Ma-Ke Bonsai Care Guide for Ulmus parvifolia". Ma-Ke Bonsai. Retrieved 2021-02-04.
  25. ^ "Brooklyn Botanic Garden". Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  26. ^ "Fullerton Arboretum | Cal State Fullerton". Fullertonarboretum.org. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  27. ^ "The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania". upenn.edu. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  28. ^ http://www.usna.usda.gov/index.htm [permanent dead link]
  29. ^ "List of plants in the {elm} collection". Brighton & Hove City Council. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Welcome to Cambridge Botanic Garden - Find Out More". Cambridge Botanic Garden. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  31. ^ Johnson, Owen (ed.) (2003). Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland. Whittet Press, ISBN 978-1-873580-61-5.
  32. ^ "tba.ee". www.tba.ee. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  33. ^ "The Forestry Commission - The National Arboreta". forestry.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  34. ^ "Eastwoodhill - National Arboretum of New Zealand". eastwoodhill.org.nz. Archived from the original on 11 March 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2018.

External links[edit]