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Meet A Tree - Blog

Meet A Tree - Blog

Meet The "Chinese Elm" - Ulmus parvifolia

Posted on 22 October, 2015 at 0:00

The Chinese Elm - Ulmus parvifolia - is also referred to as the Lacebark Elm. It is a small to medium deciduous or semi-deciduous tree that reaches heights of 30-60 feet tall on average when mature. It is considered a tough landscape tree and is tolerant to sites that are not ideal for other plantings such as parking lots, street/patio planters and even windswept coastal areas.



Image Citation: Michasia Harris, University of Georgia,


The bark is a beautiful combination of greys, reds, and tans that appear in a flaking or lace pattern (hence the name Lacebark Elm). The leaves are small only 2-5 cm long, single toothed and green in color during the growing season. The leaves change to a deep purple-green in the fall. Many Chinese Elms in the United States and Europe retain their leaves into late December or even early January.

Image Citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University,

Image Citation: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,


The Chinese Elm is considered a very tough wood with interlocking grain. This type of Elm wood is used for hardwood floors, tool handles, cabinets, veneers, and furniture making. The lumber takes well to stains and turns well with wood turning machinery but is not easy to carve using hand tools. The heartwood of the Chinese Elm ranges from reddish brown to light flesh color and the sapwood is a very light off-white. The graining of Chinese Elm wood is very beautiful. Freshly cut Chinese Elm is said to have a peppery/spicy odor which is not a trait of any other Elm.


Though a native of Asia (China, India, Taiwan, Japan and North Korea) the Chinese Elm is hardy in zones 5-9 and is used commonly in landscaping as a shade or specimen tree. It's strong qualities and beauty have made it so popular that it can be found planted on every continent except Antartica. There are many different cultivars available and with each the cold hardiness range could vary. The Chinese Elm is very resistant (but not 100% immune) to Dutch Elm Disease, a serious disease that has devestated others in the Elm family.


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