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Ulmus 'Purpurea'

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Cultivar  'Purpurea'
Rank  Species
Ulmus 'Purpurea' httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Similar  Ulmus minor 'Argenteo‑Variegata', Ulmus minor 'Purpurascens', Ulmus minor 'Goodyeri'

The elm cultivar Ulmus 'Purpurea' is probably synonymous with the tree listed by Henry (1913) as Ulmus montana (: glabra) var. atropurpurea, raised at the Späth nursery in Germany c.1881 and later classed as a cultivar by Boom [6] in Nederlandse Dendrologie 1: 157, 1959. Henry also listed an Ulmus campestris (:U. minor 'Atinia') var. purpurea , with a description matching that of 'Purpurea', and adding that though it was grown at Kew as U. montana (:glabra) var. purpurea it was "probably of hybrid origin".


The ancestry of the tree remains obscure, but the fact that 'Purpurea' occasionally produces suckers suggests an U. minor hybrid origin. F. J. Fontaine conjectured U. glabra × U. minor 'Stricta', placing the tree in the Ulmus × hollandica group under the name U. × hollandica 'Purpurascens'. Both the leaves and the habit of 'Purpurea' appear to support this conjecture. U. glabra itself occasionally produces red- or purple-flushed new leaves; an elm in the gardens of the Hedvig Eleonora Church, Östermalm, Stockholm, is listed as Ulmus procera 'Purpurea', but in form, fruit and foliage it appears to be a wych elm with a purplish tinge to its leaves. In Europe there is also a putative small-leaved elm Ulmus minor 'Purpurascens'.

In North America, purple-leaved elms encountered in the fall are likely to be the new hybrid Ulmus 'Frontier'.


U. purpurea K.Koch had "leaves purple when young, changing to dark green". 'Purpurea' grows to > 25 m in height, and is short-trunked with open, straggling, ascending branches. The bark has a reddish-brown hue. The leaf-buds are long, sharply pointed and dark purple, on shoots of the same colour. The flowers, too, emerge a uniform dark purple. The fruit, tinged purple, is small and intermediate between U. glabra and U. minor. The leaves, which are slightly folded, have a brief purplish-green flush in spring. The new leaves of lower bole-shoots and of suckers are pure dark purple, without any green. After the spring flush, the leaves become olive green then darken in the summer - perhaps the darkest green of all the elms. Their underside is paler, so that, with their increasing fold as the year progresses, the late-summer foliage has a greyish hue.

Pests and diseases

The tree is susceptible to Dutch elm disease. A specimen at the Ryston Hall arboretum [7] in Norfolk, England, obtained from the Späth nursery in Berlin before 1914 was killed by the earlier strain of Dutch elm disease in the 1930s.


In Australia cultivars by the name of U. glabra 'Purpurea', U. procera 'Purpurea' and U. purpurea appear in old nursery catalogues dating from 1886; these are now believed to be synonymous with the cultivar currently known there as U. × hollandica 'Purpurascens'. An U. montana atropurpurea was planted in 1896 at the Dominion Arboretum, Ottowa, Canada. Specimens of U. montana 'Atropurpurea' supplied by the Späth nursery in 1902 to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, whose practice it was to distribute trees about the city. An elm obtained in 1922 from H. Kohankie & Son was listed by the Morton Arboretum, Illinois, as Ulmus procera 'Purpurea', but without description.

In Europe the cultivar U. × hollandica 'Purpurascens' was "produced in quantity" by nurseries in Oudenbosch, the Netherlands. It appears to have been rarer in cultivation in the UK; Wilkinson in his researches for Epitaph for the Elm (1978) had never seen a specimen. In Australia 'Purpurascens' was sold by Searl's Garden Emporium, Sydney at the beginning of the 20th century and was "quite widely" planted in the south-east of the country, where it is said to tolerate dry conditions. Urban plantings include avenue specimens and scattered trees in Fawkner Park, Melbourne.

In 2007 the Swedish Biodiversity Centre's 'Programme for Diversity of Cultivated Plants' included 'Purpurascens' (mistakenly called Ulmus procera 'Purpurea') in their plant conservation programme.

Notable trees

Several trees still survive in the UK and Australia. In the UK probably the largest is that in Cottesmore St. Mary's School, Hove, 18 m high, 51 cm d.b.h. (1993). In Edinburgh, six of the seven mature specimens growing in Warriston Cemetery (middle level) were felled in the 1990s; the seventh, near the east gate, remains healthy (2016) (height 20 m, bole-girth 2.2 m; labelled 03159 CEM). Ignorance of this cultivar may have occasioned unnecessary felling: the tree's naturally upcurled, greyish foliage in late summer may be mistaken for foliage affected by Dutch elm disease. A vigorous sucker in the cemetery has now become an established tree. In Australia the Avenue of Honour at Wallan, Victoria, was planted solely with 'Purpurascens' in the early 1920s, most of which survive, and the cultivar was also included in the Avenue of Honour in Ballarat in 1918.


  • Ulmus montana (: glabra) var. atropurpurea: Elwes and Henry
  • Ulmus montana (: glabra) 'Purpurea': Kew Garden list of names
  • Ulmus 'Purpurea': Koch ; Bean; National Elm Collection elm list
  • Ulmus x hollandica 'Purpurascens': Fontaine, Dendroflora No.5 (1968)
  • ?Ulmus campestris (: minor) 'Purpurea': Kirchner [8]
  • ?Ulmus procera 'Purpurea': Morton Arboretum Catalogue 2006.
  • Europe

  • Brighton & Hove City Council, UK, NCCPG elm collection [9]. UK champion: Cottesmore St. Mary's School, Hove, 18 m high, 51 cm d.b.h. in 1993.
  • RBG Wakehurst Place, UK. Listed as U. glabra 'Atropurpurea'. Acc. no. 1896–1411.
  • Grange Farm Arboretum, Sutton St. James, Spalding, Lincolnshire, UK. As U. glabra 'Purpurea'. Acc. no. 1068.
  • Australia

  • Avenue of Honour, Wallan, Victoria.
  • Avenue of Honour, Ballarat, Victoria.
  • North America

  • Dominion Arboretum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Acc. no. 2596.
  • Europe

  • Centrum voor Botanische Verrijking vzw, Kampenhout, Belgium (as Ulmus glabra 'Purpurea').
  • Loenbaek Planteskole [10], Holstebro, Denmark
  • Propagation Nurseries Vermeerderingstuin [11] Horst and Zeewolde, Netherlands
  • References

    Ulmus 'Purpurea' Wikipedia

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