I kept seeing these suspiciously perfect trees at Vandy—flanking the Children’s Hospital, standing guard along West End—with fluted columns and urbane foliage. When I noticed they had elm seeds in October (most elms produce seeds in spring), I investigated.
They are Lacebark Elm, a.k.a. Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia), popular urban ornamentals. Cute lil’ leaves a fraction of the size of American elms, and the samaras hold edible seeds that are tasty though tiny.
Exotic species, yes, and not nearly as ecologically functional as a native species, of course, but I can’t resist the lovely bark and the free snack.
If you want to see a bunch in a row, go to Vandy’s Barnes and Noble: every tree in front of 2525 is a lacebark elm. Park beneath a low-hanging branch to nibble on peeled samaras. I just did, but there’s plenty for all.