(438) Searching for Cold Hardy Lace-bark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia Jacq.) for Northern Latitudes

in HortScience
Authors: A.M. Shirazi1 and G.H. Ware1
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  • 1 The Morton Arboretum, Urban Horticulture Research Lab., Lisle, IL, 60532

The genus Ulmus contains numerous stress-tolerant species, especially those from areas of China with climates similar to various regions of the United States. Lace-bark elm, Ulmus parvifolia, the true Chinese elm, has an extensive temperature distribution range in China and offers great promise as a street tree. The high resistance of this elm to Dutch elm disease and other elm problems makes it an excellent tree for urban landscapes. Two new U. parvifolia cultivars, Athena® and Allee®, are not cold hardy for northern climates and there is a need for new cold hardy lace-bark elms. Screening thousands of seedlings for cold hardiness, upright form, beautiful bark characteristics, and larger leaves will bring the most desirable U. parvifolia cultivars into the green industry. We determined that seed dormancy and the percentage of seed germination of four selected lacebark elms after 2 and 4 weeks were >30% and >50%, respectively. There were significant differences in stem cold hardiness among new lace-bark elms from China (about –32 to –40 °C). Laboratory determination of cold hardiness can provide great advantages over years of field testing. Response to the outdoor temperature in December, January, and February on a seed cold hardiness freezing test showed significant reduction in seed germination, especially at –30 °C. Freezing test of seeds to –40 °C, resulted in lt50 of –3 to –5 °C in December, so, it is less likely that these U. parvifoilia will become invasive in northern latitudes. Invasiveness of these U. parvifolia for higher zones, e.g., 6–8 could be greater and selection of these elms is suitable for zones 5 and lower. Planting these elms in zones 4, 3, and 2 will give us useful information regarding their winter performance.

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