The Q&A Archives: Chinese Elm Varieties

Question: Around San Diego, I've noticed 2 distinct forms of Chinese elm tree: Both have identical leaf shape and bark characteristics. Both also flower in the fall. Their differences involve leaf color and pattern of branching. One has olive green leaves and branches that droop almost to the ground like a weeping willow; while the other has bright green leaves and branches which reach upwards.

I've found information about different Chinese elm varieties on the Internet. However, I haven't been able to figure out which is which.

By any chance, do you sell different varieties of Chinese elm? Any response to this enquiry would be greatly appreciated. This is a problem that's had me stumped for over 2 years now.


Bill Hildreth

Answer: Monrovia grows two Chinese elms:

Ulmus parvifolia 'Sempervirens', the Chinese Evergreen Elm is a semi-evergreen depending on climate. It has a round-headed, weeping habit formed by broadly spreading arching branches. The finely toothed, small green leaves are retained until new leaves develop. It grows best in full sun. Moderately fast-growing to 40 to 50 feet high, 50 to 60 feet wide.

Ulmus parvifolia 'Drake' is Drake's Chinese Elm. Its attractive round headed canopy forms a broad, spreading crown with pendant branches. The shedding bark on older trees is interesting and adds to its attraction. It, too, is semi-evergreen, grows best in full sun, and reaches 30 to 35 feet tall, 40 to 45 feet wide.

The tree you've described with upright branches is probably Ulmus parvifolia 'Allee'. It's a vase-shaped tree growing 70' tall and about 60' wide. Hope this information helps you solve the mystery!

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