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Society of Municipal Arborists 2012 Urban Tree of the Year

The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA), comprised of 1,400 urban forestry professionals worldwide, has chosen Accolade elm (Ulmus ‘Morton’) as its 2012 Urban Tree of the Year. The selection must be adaptable to a variety of harsh growing conditions and have strong ornamental traits. The Tree of the Year program has been running for 17 years, and past honorees include goldenraintree (2011), redbud (2010), Chinkapin oak (2009), black tupelo (2008), baldcypress (2007), and Kentucky coffeetree (2006).

Accolade elm is hardy to USDA Zone 4 and can be expected to reach 40 to 60 feet (12.2 to 18.3 m) in height and 35 to 40 feet (10.7 to 12.2 m) in spread. It is praised by city forestry professionals for its toughness and beauty. Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director Nina Bassuk says:

Accolade is one of the most vigorously growing trees we have ever planted in Ithaca, New York. When young, Accolade is somewhat gangly with numerous limbs growing up and out, but not long ago, I saw the original mature Accolade at the Morton Arboretum and it was spectacular, reminiscent of the tall arched form of the American elm. It also has handsome, dark green summer color and reasonably good, yellow fall color.

Accolade and other hybrid elms like Danada Charm (Ulmus ‘Morton Red Tip’) have become deservedly popular. They are resistant to Dutch Elm Disease and reportedly resistant to elm yellows as well. They are easy to plant bare root and have a large, highly-branched root system. Like other elms, they are highly tolerant of alkaline soil and wet or dry soil conditions. The only danger is of over-planting, as their ease of transplanting and vigorous growth in the face of difficult conditions makes them the default tree for tough spots.

The SMA recognizes Accolade elm for its service to urban forests and encourages its use when matched appropriately to site and as part of a diverse urban tree inventory. Read more about the Accolade elm on the SMA website.

Photo: One of the original Accolade elms at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.

Photo credit: Bruce Marlin