SOLVED: Hot Air Balloon Tree I.D.

Seward, NE

This is a tree I saw recently in Penna. It looks like a hot air balloon to me. It is not pruned this way, it just grows naturally this way. Anyone know what it is. Grows in eastern Pa. zone 5. Thanks!


Thumbnail by Peachykeen
Raleigh, NC(Zone 7b)

Perhaps a Zelkova sp/cv?

Seward, NE

Hmm... I googled that name and the images that came up just look too spreading to me. There was more than one of these trees in exactly the same shape... very tight, no branching out or spreading of limbs. It was at the Rodale Institute in Penna. The gal at the visitor's center didn't know what they were either.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Could be. Many Japanese Zelkova have this general form, but the branches tend towards at least a bit of pendancy.

Could also be one of the fastigiate European Hornbeams. I'm leaning toward Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'. The bark looks more to be Hornbeam as well.

Does Peachykeen have any more pictures, like leaf or trunk closeups?

Raleigh, NC(Zone 7b)

VV - as usual. I think you're right... Zelkova tend to have a more relaxed/open growth habit. They're rather common in my area so that's why I thought of it... but Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata' looks to be a better match (guess they don't much like the hot, humid SE US).

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

No they don't - at least after about a decade. They give it a good run, and then the borers get 'em - at least that's the story around here. You see them race up to a big wide globular shape, then start showing a dying-out center, and then they are firewood.

As far as IDing that Hornbeam (assuming I am actually right)? I didn't see this post before you, so I can't really take a "that's all that it possibly can be!" position as far as my opinion.

It often takes someone else's offering to make you think about it, and sense why you believe that just isn't quite on the mark. Then, you have to sort through what it is that puts that in your mind, and then ponder on what is more like it.

And then, sometimes, you still don't know - but you offer to eat it. What could possibly be up with that?

Gladstone, OR

At the outset I have to plead ignorance when it comes to the identification of trees in general (except for a select few) but I thought that the distinct shape and appearance of the mature tree would be a key in identifying it.

I used the search term (in Google Images) >

"The tree is distinctly teardrop shape in appearance"

My search results:

Carpinus betulus
European Hornbeam
QUOTE: "Form - species form and cultivars have an upright oval growth habit in youth, becoming more spreading with age."

Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’
Pyramidal European Hornbeam

Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata' / Fastigiate Hornbeam
[see pic > "Mature Fastigiate"]

So it seems to support the ID by ViburnumValley as Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'

Burien, WA(Zone 7b)

There is a Zelkova called Zelkova serrata green vase. It has this growth pattern. Maybe this is your tree?
A pic of the bark and leaves would help distinguish whether it's a carpinus or Zelkova. Also, do you know if it has fall color? This would also help narrow the field down.
I know you said the tree wasn't pruned this shape, but it does still look like it has had some corrective pruning to keep it in shape..
Anyway, my 2 cents :)

Burien, WA(Zone 7b)

Also, now that I am looking at more pics of the carpinus betulus fastigiata I don't thinks it's that either. The top of the tree is all wrong. That tree comes to a point at the top, like a pyramid. The tree is question has a broad flat top, exactly the opposite of the hornbeam.
I'm still leaning toward the green vase Zelkova, but I am hoping for leaf & bark photos. Bark would be very helpful, as hornbeam and Zelkova have distinctly different bark.

Seward, NE

So sorry I don't have photos of the bark and leaves. I'm leaning toward the pyramidal european hornbeam though. The Moon nurseries photo looks just like mine and it was growing in zone 5. Works for me! thanks everyone who responded. Appreciate your time!


Burien, WA(Zone 7b)

I would hold off before you start calling it a hornbeam. Like I said in the previous post, the shape is not right. It's exactly the opposite in fact. Unless they sheared the top of it to reduce the height.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

The image posted above sure looks to me like it is ascending to more of a point. The very top of the tree is not in the picture, however.

Without more information, I wouldn't categorize that as a Japanese Zelkova. All the Zelkova clones planted around here ('Green Vase', 'Village Green' are the favorites) have branch tips that are pendant or arching - this tree shows none of that.

Also, Japanese Zelkova usually will have longer internodes than shown, where these fastigiate hornbeams have that "tighter" look. I also believe almost every Japanese Zelkova will have a common point on the trunk from which major branches ascend, from whence they derive their "vase-shaped" habit. I don't see this feature on this plant either.

But - this is only one picture and a lot of suppositions on what can and can't be seen in it.

Maybe the person whose elbow is in the picture may have additional images to share? Peachykeen? How 'bout it?

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