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Chinese elm is a medium to large fast-growing shade tree. This species is quite tolerant of drought and poor soil; hence, it has been extensively used in urban situations. There are numerous cultivars; cultivar selection criteria include cold hardiness, form, growth rate, foliage characteristics, and bark showiness. Seedling-grown trees will vary in form ranging from a vase-shape to a very wide-spreading form. This species has a relatively showy bark; it is a patchwork of orange, tan, gray, and brown colors and will vary from tree to tree (seedling-grown trees). Fall foliage color is considered fair to nondescript depending on cultivar and location. A major liability of Chinese elm is that it is prone to storm damage (split branches and trunks).
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
February 21, 2012