A Gardening Journal

Flowering of the Scots Elm

Hooray: The pollard of gold-leaved Scots elm has begun flowering! The show is of a delicate yellow scattered over bare branches with the grace of the flowers of cherries. Their branches are iconic for early spring bouquets that are spare but voluptuous—and often ceiling high. No surprise, then, that cut branches of elm in flower make as easy and elegant a show.

 

Ulmus glabra Aurea fingers 042817 640

 

Clusters of translucent yellow disks bejewel the stems!

 

Ulmus glabra Aurea fingers closer 042817 640

 

But are these true flowers? If these disks are the flowers' petals, where are the stamens and pistils?

 

Ulmus glabra Aurea translucent no fingers 042817 640

 

The picture below shows a single one of the disks. It was a flower, but it is now that flower's seed: See the solid wafer-like one in the middle? At the upper-right edge of the disk is a yellow-tipped burgundy wisp. This is the tip of the flower's pistil, which is where pollen had attached to begin the fertilization. This tip is known as a stigma.

 

Ulmus glabra Aurea single samara 042817 cropped 640

 

The burgundy bits at the lower left of the disk are what's left of the flower's calyx. The disk itself is this seed's surrounding papery fruit, called a samara. It developed outward from the wall of the flower's ovary as the flat central seed was forming within it.

 

When fully mature, the featherweight samara will release from the tree to float away on the slightest breeze. It will carry its seed far enough from the tree that it has a better chance of germinating beyond both the shade of the tree's branches and the dryness of its moisture-hogging roots.

 

So then, I hadn't harvested a branch of this Scots elm when it was in in flower but, rather, when it was already in fruit. As you can see in the picture below (borrowed from the web), the flowers lack petals. But like the samaras they mature to, they are borne in dense clusters and, en masse, their near-black anthers and raspberry stigmas are a worthy show in themselves.

 

Ulmus glabra flower cluster 640

 

I missed this season's flowering of my pollarded Ulmus glabra 'Aurea' not because it's not interesting, but because so few of the pollard's branches were in flower that the tree didn't catch my eye across the garden for the week or so they were out. No matter if the branches are studded with clusters of flowers or their follow-on samaras, they are as elegant as those of any flowering cherry. And because the elm's flowers and fruits are both showy when there's a critical mass of them, a floriferous tree provides two peaks of interest in early spring, not just the cherry's single one of its flowers.

 

Someday—perhaps in the spring of 2018?—the young branches formed as a result of the elm's pollarding two years ago will finally be mature enough to flower and later fruit with gusto. Then, I can enjoy both of its spring shows twice over: on the tree and in the vase.

 

 

Here's how to grow golden Scots elm.

Here's how lengthy and vigorous the first-year growth of a pollarded Scots elm is.

Here's how the canopy of this pollarded Scots elm looked in late February, giving no clue as to whether or not any stems were bearing flower buds. This post concludes with my strategy for becoming a "pollarding gradualist:"  each season I prune some of the branches back to force a steady supply of young growth, even as I let selected other branches continue to grow and mature in hopes that, in a year or two, they will at last mature to flowering—and fruiting.

 
 
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