2003 Urban Tree of the Year

The Society of Municipal Arborists presents the 2003 Urban Tree of the Year: Allée Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia). The American Elm was the dominant street tree in the United States in the first half of 20th century, until it was decimated by Dutch Elm Disease (DED). Following this outbreak, nursery production and urban planting of elm trees virtually ceased. In the meantime, the nursery industry has been hard at work developing a number of trees that have been found or bred to be tolerant of DED, and the genus Ulmus is making a comeback in the green industry.

While the object of most elm breeding has been to find a replacement for the American elm, the true Lacebark or Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, has generated interest in its own right. This unique and highly variable species ranges from evergreen to deciduous in its native range. Its bark characteristics vary from a beautiful exfoliating mosaic of tan, orange, green and gray to a dark bark that is of no special interest. Tree size and leaf size are smaller that the American elm, so it is used a little differently in the landscape. It fills the role of a medium sized tree with ornamental characteristics, and is used often as a single specimen as well as its use as a street tree. It is quite heat resistant, and it was first appreciated in the south, where evergreen and semi-evergreen selections with ornamental bark were developed and widely planted.

City Trees conducts the Urban Tree of the Year competition every year to illustrate the importance of selecting the right tree for the right spot. The intent of this program is not to indicate that this tree is the perfect tree that can grow anywhere, but is to make municipal arborists aware of this tree and they should use it if they have a site suitable for it.

The 'Allée' Lacebark Elm was selected as this year's Urban Tree of the Year by most of the participants to our survey that appeared in the last issue of City Trees.

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