Characteristics of Japanese Zelkova Tree (Zelkova serrata) in the Wild

Zelkova serrata
Japanese Zelkova or Keyaki (Zelkova serrata) is a deciduous tree of the genus Zelkova in the Ulmaceae family and is found growing naturally in parts of East Asia and most commonly in Japan, China, and Korea.

Japanese Zelkova is often planted as a roadside tree, a complimentary tree for landscapes, an ornamental tree in public gardens and large yards. This tree can grow into a large tree and has a long life. In Japan, several zelkova trees reach over 1000 years of age and make them popular trees and symbols of places or regions.

Famous Japanese Zelkova Tree

  • 三 恵 の 大 ケ ヤ キ is a large zelkova tree in the Minami-Alps, Yamanashi Prefecture, which is estimated to be 1000 years old.
  • 根 古屋 神社 の 大 ケ ヤ キ is an old zelkova tree located on the shrine grounds in the Negoya Jinja neighborhood in Egusa, Sutama-cho, Kitamori City, Yamanashi Prefecture. This tree is also thought to be over 1000 years old.
  • 野 間 の 大 ケ ヤ キ also known as “Noma” is an ancient zelkova tree located in Osaka Prefecture, and the age of this tree is estimated to be 1000 years or more.
  • 八 代 の 大 ケ ヤ キ is the oldest zelkova tree in Japan located in Hyogo Prefecture. This tree is believed to be between 1500-1600 years old.

Apart from being grown as an ornamental tree, the Japanese Zelkova is also widely cultivated and used as a bonsai specimen by bonsai artists in Japan and other countries with a suitable climate for the Zelkova serrata tree.


Characteristics of Japanese Zelkova Leaf

Zelkova serrata Leaf
Source: Gregg

The leaves are alternating, 3-10 cm long and 1.3-7 cm wide with a petiole 2-7 mm long. The leaves are serrated with 8-16 teeth on each side. The color of the leaves in autumn ranges from orange to red.


Characteristics of Japanese Zelkova Flower

Zelkova serrata Flower

The flowers are about 1-1.5 mm in diameter, yellowish-green, without petals, and are pollinated by the wind.


Characteristics of Japanese Zelkova Fruit

Zelkova serrata Fruit

The fruit is small, about 2.5-3.5 mm in diameter with a serrated surface.


Characteristics of Japanese Zelkova Tree

Zelkova serrata Tree
Source: Webb

The Japanese zelkova is a deciduous tree that can grow into a medium to large tree, reaching 30-35 meters in height, with trunks up to 2 meters in diameter. The bark is gray, then turns dark brown and scaly against the old trees. The branches are many, generally rising strongly from a short trunk to form a high domed crown.

The wood called ‘Keyaki’ is highly valued in Japan and is often used in the manufacture of Tansu furniture.

Zelkova serrata is also a symbol of Saitama Prefecture and the city of Kiyose (Tokyo) in Japan.


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