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I have this tree in my front yard, and I'm trying to determine exactly what it is so that I know how to care for it in the future (I've lived in my home in Nashville, Tennessee for less than a year):

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The above photo was taken a couple of days ago, so it's obviously showing its fall colors. Here's a close-up of the bark, which has a peeling appearance to it (leading me to think this is a type of birch) and an orange or salmon color to it:

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Edit: Here's a closer look at the bark:

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Lastly, here's a close-up of some of its leaves, which average about an inch long, so that you can see what they look. You'll notice that the branches have a lot of petal-like things attached to them that they are shedding now too:

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I'm finding the fallen leaves particularly a nuisance, as they're so small that they're sticking to the ground, and I'm not having luck mulching them with my mower.

  • Ah yes, sorry! I completely overlooked adding the location in my original question (I'll add it soon, but it's in the Nashville area of Tennesse). I'll also try to get a better picture of the bark tomorrow during the daylight. – Derek Nov 14 '16 at 23:32
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I do believe you've got an Elm; Ulmus parvifolia. Chinese Elm or Lacebark Elm. This tree is far better than birch! Tough, hardy tree. Resistant to the diseases that have ravaged other Elm species.

Yours could use a bit of thinning to allow more air flow through your tree. Also a much larger circle at the base of the trunk, go ahead and make a square instead of a circle and take out the grass within that square, one side of that square should be the sidewalk. 3' or 4' square free of grass. Careful removing the sod around the shallow roots. This can be done in the early spring. Simply making a clear plastic cover to kill the grass by solarization might be easiest. Just 'cook' it enough to scrape it off the soil (a month?) Get a mulch, preferably a decomposed organic mulch or at least fine ground bark, coat the bare soil 2".

Do not let that mulch touch the tree, the bark of your tree. Keep it pulled back.

Don't fertilize or anything else until spring. Do you know if the previous owners fertilized? We can talk about your lawn in the spring, grins!

And we could walk you through a simple pruning. In the very middle of the picture there is this odd branch. Do you see that that caliper of branch is vastly different than the trunk from which it grew? That needs to be taken off, as well as that lame stump someone left. The stickiness is probably from 'honey dew'...there are no such things as 'mulching mowers' as far as I know. Do you have a single blade or two blades? What you absolutely have to have is a great gas blower! Blow the leaves into the back of your beds...thinly spread. Or compost or take them to the dump so someone else can make use of this great organic matter!

How high can you raise that deck? I always bag grass clippings instead of 'mulching'...we can talk about this in the spring. A good aerating by pulling plugs out of your lawn would be a good thing to do now. Leave the plugs right there on the lawn. Doesn't look like you have to worry about mowing again before winter. Do you know what kind of grass you have?

Maybe a good watering would be in order for the lawn as well as your tree before winter hits.

Check these pictures. Lacebark Elm

  • That looks right on the money, thanks! All our neighbors appear to have a Chinese Elm in their front yard, too, and interestingly, I noticed that just about everybody either has grass growing up to the trunk, or a small circular patch of mulch about the same size as ours. Based on the info on this site, it appears to be a pretty hard tree, so I guess it's not surprising that these are thriving without adequate mulch. – Derek Nov 15 '16 at 17:23
  • One of the main purposes of that circle is to keep equipment like mowers and weed wackers away from that trunk. Mulch keeps the weeds/grass shaded killing competing vegetation. When you fertilize your lawn (3-4x per year), your tree will be getting fertilized as well. That is why you need to find out what the previous owners have done. If you are interested in having the best, greenest, most lush lawn on your block, please write back this spring!! You could end up teaching everyone on your block how to prune these wonderful trees and how to maintain those lawns. – stormy Nov 15 '16 at 20:15
  • one more thing re: your comment about "no such things as 'mulching mowers'". I take it that's a snide comment about how you think they don't work as advertised? Just curious what you meant by that. Thanks! – Derek Nov 25 '16 at 13:40
  • Glad I got that idea across. That is correct. They do not do what they advertise. Perhaps on a huge field of pasture grass but not these babied lawns! Some dang uneducated idiot is making money by making us think that those lawn clippings really help these lawns. I've earned a living by caring for these beasts we've created called 'lawns'...they are so different than other plants and crops we know I made a huge effort to understand them. Not so much warm season grasses (damn weeds!!) but I've been learning about them lately. Bag clippings, if you've got a double bladed 'mulching mower' – stormy Nov 25 '16 at 21:16
  • ...well great. It will chop in smaller pieces and your bagged grass is wonderful to smother weeds and add organic matter to your plant beds or fill your compost with GREEN material. Leaving it on the lawn is just dumb all in the hopes we'll be better ecological stewards. You asked for the real snideness behind my answer, grins!! – stormy Nov 25 '16 at 21:19

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