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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - April 29, 2009

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: What is the scoop on dwarf cedar elms?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Several years ago, I purchased a small plant from a San Antonio wholesaler that was identified as a "Dwarf Cedar Elm." My brother had also purchased a few from there. No one there knows anything about them. I have never seen it anywhere else or found any other references to it anywhere. The leaf is very small and looks just like a cedar elm leaf (i.e. Ulmus crassifolia). When mature, the tree will get to be about 12 feet tall. It has many cedar elm characteristics, only smaller. Have you ever heard of this? Is it considered a native? Thanks

ANSWER:

Many plant species will occasionally produce dwarf individuals.  Clever horticulturists recognize the market potential of naturally dwarfed plants and collect, asexually propagate, and introduce these unusual specimens to the nursery trade.  Some cultivars, like dwarf yaupon, Ilex vomitoria become mainstays of landscape design.  Others, may not.  Some dwarf plants are not especially attractive, Some lose their dwarf characteristics over time and "grow out of" their diminutive stature.  Some are inordinately difficult to propagate and thus, fall from favor with nurserymen.  Finally, some may be more susceptible to diseases than their full-size counterparts.

We have heard of nurseries offering dwarf cedar elms, Ulmus crassifolia from time to time, though we have never actually seen any of the plants.  However, we are a little skeptical about their horticultural value since they don't seem to remain on the market very long.  All of this to say we just don't know much about them.

Another dwarf elm is a non-native hybrid, Ulmus x hollandica 'Jacqueline Hillier'.  It is possible, though not so likely, that it has been marketed as a dwarf cedar elm.

 

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