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Ulmus davidiana

Ulmus davidiana
David Elm, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, England.
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Ulmaceae
Genus: Ulmus
Subgenus: U. subg. Ulmus
Section: U. sect. Ulmus
U. davidiana
Binomial name
Ulmus davidiana
  • Ulmus davidiana var. mandshurica Skvortsov
  • Ulmus davidiana var. pubescens Skvortsov

Ulmus davidiana, also known as the David elm, or Father David elm (named after the botanist Armand David, who collected specimens), is a small deciduous tree widely distributed across China, Mongolia, Korea, Siberia, and Japan, where it is found in wetlands along streams at elevations of 2000–2300 m (6,500–7,500 ft).[2] The tree was first described in 1873 from the hills north of Beijing, China.[3]


Two varieties of Ulmus davidiana are recognized: var. davidiana, occurring only in China, and var. japonica Rehder, the more widely ranging Japanese Elm.[2] Some authorities, however, do not consider japonica to be a variety of U. davidiana, The Illustrated Flora of the Primorsky Territory, Russian Far East (2019), for example, maintaining U. japonica as a species.[4][5] In 1916 Arnold Arboretum described the two as different species.[6] Harold Hillier originally (1973) listed and described japonica as a variety of U. davidiana,[7] but Hillier's separated the two as distinct species in later editions of their Manual of Trees and Shrubs.[8]


Ulmus davidiana is considered to have a remarkable resemblance to the American elm (U. americana) in all but ultimate size.[9] The tree grows to a maximum height of 15 m (50 ft), with a relatively slender trunk < 0.3 m (1 ft) d.b.h. supporting a dense canopy casting a heavy shade. Its bark remains smooth for a comparatively long time, before becoming longitudinally fissured. The leaves, often dark red on emergence, are obovate to obovate-elliptic < 10 cm (4 in) × < 5 cm (2 in), with a minimal petiole of 2-3mm; the upper surface is rough.[10] The perfect, wind-pollinated apetalous flowers are produced on second-year shoots in March,[11] followed by obovate samarae < 19 mm (3/4 in) long × < 14 mm (1/2 in) wide.[12]

Pests and diseases

Evaluated with other Chinese elms at the Morton Arboretum in Illinois, the tree was found to have a good resistance to Dutch elm disease (DED) [13] [4] [5]. The species is reputed to have a good resistance to elm leaf beetle Xanthogaleruca luteola, elm yellows (elm phloem necrosis) and leafminers in the US.[13] [6]


The tree was briefly propagated and marketed by the Hillier & Sons nursery, Winchester, Hampshire from 1971 to 1977, during which time only four were sold.[14][15]

There are no known cultivars of this taxon, nor is it known to be in commerce beyond the United States.

American testing

The David Elm has shown some promise as a result of testing at the Ohio State University (OSU) in Ohio.[16][17] At OSU, the plants were cultivated in copper-lined pots and planted in a wide lawn under a powerline and in small home lawns. The tree's performance has been mixed, but shows potential. Some specimens did extremely well, while others struggled. The tree seems to perform well on disturbed sites, in calciferous (alkaline) soils, and also seems to have a better tolerance for wet soil than the literature has indicated. A number of strong saplings were cultivated that show promise. Some saplings underwent judicious pruning early on to maximize structural stability of the plant ("pruning can help the plant result in a more structurally stable branching pattern" [16]), and blue-colored tree shelters were used on some plants until the stem reached a diameter of 25–37 mm.

Additional observation shows that at least 50% of emerging leaves on the trees survived a hard freeze that lasted 5 days during April 2007. Leaves were approximately 70% emerged when temperatures fell to −6°C (21°F). Temperatures fell below freezing for 5 days (April 4–8, 2007).

Notable trees

The UK TROBI Champion is a relatively young tree at White House Farm, Ivy Hatch, Kent, measuring 5 m high by 17 cm d.b.h. in 2009.[18]


The tree is named for Father Armand David, the French missionary and naturalist who introduced the tree to France in the 19th century.


North America


  1. ^ Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).; IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (2019). "Ulmus davidiana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T135925802A136775258. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T135925802A136775258.en. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b Fu, L., Xin, Y. & Whittemore, A. (2002). Ulmaceae, in Wu, Z. & Raven, P. (eds) Flora of China, Vol. 5 (Ulmaceae through Basellaceae). Science Press, Beijing, and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, USA. [1]
  3. ^ Heybroek, Hans M. (1981). "The Japanese elm species and their value for the Dutch elm breeding program" (PDF). Proceedings of the Dutch Elm Disease Symposium and Workshop, October 5–9, Winnipeg, Manitoba: 78–90.
  4. ^ Kozhevnikov, Andrey E.; Kozhevnikova Zoya V.; Kwak, Myounghai; Lee, Byoung Yoon (2019), Illustrated Flora of the Primorsky Territory (Russian Far East), National Institute of Biological Resources, Incheon, South Korea
  5. ^ Ulmus japonica (Rehder) Sarg., Plants of the World Online
  6. ^ U. davidiana Planch. (no. 13) and Ulmus japonica Sarg. (no. 12), in Charles Sprague Sargent, ed., Plantae Wilsonianae: an enumeration of the woody plants collected in western China for the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University during the years 1907, 1908, and 1910 by E. H. Wilson, Vol.3, p.258-262 (Cambridge, Mass., 1916)
  7. ^ Hilliers' Manual of Trees & Shrubs. Ed. 3, 399, (1973); David & Charles, Newton Abbot, UK
  8. ^ Hilliers' Manual of Trees & Shrubs. Ed. 6, 369, 370, (2002); David & Charles, Newton Abbot, UK
  9. ^ Ware, G. (1995). Little-known elms from China: landscape tree possibilities. Journal of Arboriculture, (Nov. 1995). International Society of Arboriculture, Champaign, Illinois, US. [2] Archived 2007-11-30 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Specimen - P00721891". Collection: Vascular plants (P). Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris (France). Sheet labelled Ulmus davidiana; Armand David type specimen (1), fruit and new leaves; eastern Mongolia, 1864-5; "Specimen - P00721892". Collection: Vascular plants (P). Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris (France). Sheet labelled Ulmus davidiana; Armand David type specimen (2,) fruit and new leaves; eastern Mongolia, 1864-5
  11. ^ "Specimen - P00721893". Collection: Vascular plants (P). Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris (France). Sheet labelled Ulmus davidiana; flowers and emerging leaves; Armand David specimen, eastern Mongolia, 1864-5
  12. ^ "Specimen - P00721894". Collection: Vascular plants (P). Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris (France). Sheet labelled Ulmus davidiana; fruit and new leaves; Armand David specimen, eastern Mongolia, 1864-5
  13. ^ a b Morton Arboretum Quarterly 31: 1-9, 1995
  14. ^ Hillier & Sons (1977). Catalogue of Trees & Shrubs. Hillier, Ampfield, UK.
  15. ^ Hillier & Sons Sales inventory 1962 to 1977 (unpublished).
  16. ^ a b D'Amato, N. & Sydnor, T. (2005). David Elm use for increasing biodiversity, Columbus, Ohio, USA. [3]
  17. ^ Struve, D. K. and Rhodus, T. (1990). Turning copper into gold. Amer. Nurseryman, 172: 114-123.
  18. ^ Johnson, O. (2011). Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland, p. 168. Kew Publishing, Kew, London. ISBN 9781842464526.
  19. ^ Tree and foliage photographs labelled Ulmus davidiana var. mandshurica, Dawes Arboretum, Newark, Ohio; dawesarb.arboretumexplorer
  20. ^ "List of plants in the {elm} collection". Brighton & Hove City Council. Retrieved 23 September 2016.

Further reading

  • Jung, Mee Jung, Seong-Il Heo, and Myeong-Hyeon Wang. Free radical scavenging and total phenolic contents from methanolic extracts of Ulmus davidiana. Food Chemistry 108.2 (2008): 482-487.
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Ulmus davidiana
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