The Japanese zelkova is a handsome tree with showy fall color, attractive exfoliating bark, and a symmetrical, vase-shaped growth habit. It makes a good street tree because of its dense shade, ability to grow in marginal soils and resistance to pests and pollution.
Japanese Zelkova is a tough urban tree for residential shade and street plantings. It has a spreading, generally upright branching, vase-shaped habit. The crown is shorter and more rounded than the American elm. The bark is a smooth, reddish brown when young with prominent cherry-like lenticels. As the tree ages, the outer bark is gray-brown and often exfoliating exposing an orangish inner bark. Medium green leaves turn to shades of yellow, orange, brown, deep red to reddish-purple in fall. This tree will tolerate most soil types including those with a pH to about 7.5, but prefers deep, moist, well drained soils. It does well in full sun. Established trees are fairly drought and wind tolerant (if properly pruned). It is resistant to Dutch elm disease with good resistance to elm leaf beetle and Japanese beetle. Young trees are susceptible to frost so transplanting should be done in the spring. Pruning should be done in fall, and Japanese zelkova will require some pruning to develop a strong structure. The main branches should spaced along a single trunk, so they develop a secure hold on the trunk especially in urban areas. Branches should remain less than 1/2 the diameter of the trunk to maintain a strong form. Planting uses for zelkova include lawn, shade, and street tree, parking lot island, buffer strip, and bonsai.
Japanese zelkova is native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria. This tree is also called the "Keaki". The timber is high quality, durable and strong with a beautiful grain. It is used for furniture and in construction. It is a popular bonai tree.
Japanese zelkova prefers moist, well drained soil but is very drought tolerant once established.
The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to oblong-ovate, 1 1/4"-2" long with serrated margins, dark green and slightly rough above. Fall colors are shades of yellow, orange, brown to deep red to reddish purple.
green, not showy
Spring with the leaves.
Small, kidney bean-shaped drupe about 1/4" across ripening in the fall.