Forest 84 - Japanese Zelkova

Zelkova serrata

Zelkova serrata bark. Photo not from the Arboretum Zelkova serrata tree. Photo not from the Arboretum

Other common names

Japanese: keyaki; Chinese: ju shu.

Origin of the species name

Zelkova is derived from the south Caucasian name for Zelkova carpinifolia; serrata is Latin for saw and refers to the jagged edges of the leaves.



Date planted

June 2011


Trees of this species can live for over 1000 years.

Zelkova serrata leaves. Photo not from the Arboretum

General description

It is a medium to tall deciduous tree with a short trunk and erect to spreading branches forming a broad, round head. The bark is greyish white/brown shedding to reveal an orange inner bark. The leaves are simple and ovate with serrated margins and change to a variety of yellows, oranges and reds in autumn. The yellow-green flowers occur in tight groups and the fruits are small, pea-green drupes. Height 20m Spread 12m.

Natural distribution and habitat

The species is native to Japan, Korea, eastern China, Taiwan and the Kuril Islands (Russia) where it grows in alluvial soils beside streams in the lowlands and mountains at altitudes of 500-2000m.

Conservation status

It is not classified as a threatened species.

Planting pattern

Planted in straight lines around a rectangular clearing, with other long spaces among the lines of trees.


The wood is valued in Japan and used often for furniture, as well as the creation of taiko drums. It has also become a very widely planted tree both in Asia and elsewhere. The tree is a symbol of a number of Japanese cities and prefectures. It has been used an alternative to elm trees where Dutch elm disease is common. It is also widely used in bonsai.