Lacebark elm

February 2, 2021

And all through the wood, where I wandered with you,

the loud winds were calling;

and the robin that piped to us tune upon tune,

neath the elm – you remember…

              -Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Winter landscapes, especially with overcast skies, are dominated by a palette of muted colors. Occasionally our eyes are drawn to a surprising highlight of ornamental bark. Previously such examples discussed herein have included parrottia, plane tree, paper birch, river birch, paperbark maple, stewartia, and dawn redwood. Add to this list Ulmus parvifolia, Lacebark elm also known as Chinese elm

Many people are familiar with the American elm and its long struggle with Dutch elm disease. However, the genus Ulmus includes 30-40 different species, numerous hybrids and scores of cultivated varieties. Within this elm diversity Ulmus parvifolia, Lacebark elm is easily the most unique due to its exfoliating, mottled bark. Combinations of light-gray, gray-green, brown, orange create impressionistic swirls which in turn respond to changing light upon the trunk. A magnificent characteristic that enhances with age.

Lacebark Elm Tree

Native to eastern Asia, this is a small to medium (30-60 foot) deciduous tree. The 1 to 2-inch long leaves are a lustrous dark green, with serrated margins. The leaves remain green late into October with little fall color. Unlike American and other elm species which have inconspicuous flowers in early spring, Lacebark elm flowers occur in early autumn, hidden under the leaves. When fertilized the flowers produce a ½-inch samara (winged seed) also maturing in autumn. 

 …The thrush on the oaktop in the lane

Sang his last song, or last but one;

And as he ended, on the elm

Another had but just begun

His last; they knew no more than I

The day was done…

              -Edward Thomas

On a future visit to Mount Auburn look for Lacebark elms on Petunia Path, Pyrola Path, Elm Avenue and Birch Garden.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.

But let it go. Homesick for moderation,

Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.

If any find solution, let him tell it…

             -Mary Oliver

About the Author: Jim Gorman

Visitor Services Assistant View all posts by Jim Gorman →

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