Zelkova abelicea, also known as Cretan zelkova, and on Crete proper as abelitsia (αμπελιτσιά), is a species that belongs to the genus Zelkova and is endemic to the Greek island of Crete. It is found in small numbers and is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list of endangered species.
It is by far the most preferred wood for making the katsouna (κατσούνα), the famous traditional Cretan shepherd's versatile crook, for it is virtually indestructible. Today it is forbidden by law to use abelitsia for making a katsouna, since it is made of an entire young tree.
Zelkova abelicea is a medium-sized tree that grows from 3 m (10 ft) to 5 m (16 ft) tall. The tree is strongly branched resulting in a dense, crown shaped habit that extends close to the ground. The leaves are small and green with serrated edges. Zelkova abelicea produces perfect hermaphroditic flowers which are small and scented, and pollination is therefore thought to be achieved by insects.
This species is capable of suckering, a form of reproduction where new shoots arise from an existing root system rather than from a seed. Natural regeneration by seed is rarely seen. Root cutting seem to show a 50% success rate, though best results may be seen in the cuttings taken from late August. Branch cutting of young shoots also root with moderate success when taken in late mid to late summer. This species is usually found on rocky, mountainous areas at altitudes between 850 and 1,800 m (2,790 and 5,910 ft).
Though the species was threatened by urbanization (habitat loss), overgrazing and wildfires, recent fieldwork seems to show that Zelkova abelicea is becoming more abundant. It is not threatened with extinction, though remains vulnerable.
- Icomb Place gardens, as Z. abelicea.
1. Fielding, J. & Turland, N.; Mathew, B. (ed.), 2005. Flowers of Crete. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
2. Turland, N. J., Chilton, L. & Press, J. R., 1993. Flora of the Cretan area: annotated checklist & atlas [2nd impression, 1995, with printing errors corrected]. The Natural History Museum and HMSO, London.
3. World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1998. Zelkova abelicea. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 24 August 2007.
4. Søndergaard, P. & Egli, B.R.: Zelkova abelicea (Ulmaceae) in Crete: Floristics, Ecology, Propagation and Threats. - Willdenowia 36 (Special Issue): 317-322 - ISSN 0511-9618, copyright 2006 BGBM Berlin-Dahlem available as PDF file
5."Cretan Zelkova (Zelkova abelicea)." Arkive. Wildscreen: Promoting Conservation through Wildlife Imagery. 4 May 2009 <http://www.arkive.org/cretan-zelkova/zelkova-abelicea/info.html?section=glossaryAndReferences#glossary>.
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