elm, also referred to as white elm, is a tall tree (up to 80 feet). When
growing in the open, the trunk divides near the base into several large
limbs which arch outward, resulting in an attractive, vase-shaped silhouette.
American elm occurs on moist upland sites and bottomlands. In bottomlands,
the trunk is more likely to be buttressed than in the uplands. American
elm was widely planted as an ornamental in urban settings because it was
stress-tolerant, fast growing, and beautiful. When planted along city streets,
the over-arching branches created a cathedral-like effect.
both urban and forest populations of American elm were devastated by Dutch
elm disease, which entered the country from Europe on shipments of logs
in approximately 1930. Dutch elm disease is caused by an Asian fungus,
which is spread from tree to tree via North American and European elm bark
beetles (Scolytus multistriatus). The disease spread westward across
the U.S from several centers in the east, and continues to be a problem
today. American elms once lived to be 200 or more years old. Since the
spread of Dutch elm disease, individuals rarely survive beyond 30 years.
Scientists are trying to propagate the rare individuals that are susceptible
but naturally tolerant to Dutch elm disease. This effort offers hope for
sustainable elm populations in the future.
is light or dark gray and furrowed.
of American elm are alternate, simple, and have doubly toothed margins.
They are oval to elliptic and are 4 to 6 inches long. The surface of the
leave is smooth (sometimes sand-papery), dark green and feather-veined.
The underside is pale green.
(also link to herbarium sheet) appear before leaf-out in late winter or
early spring as drooping, hairy, greenish-red clusters of 3 to 4 flowers.
are oval and flat, up to 1/2 inch long, and have papery wings, and are
eaten by a variety of birds including bobwhite, prairie chicken, ruffed
grouse, and songbirds. Opossum and squirrels also eat the fruits.
bark is tough and can be twisted into fibers and made into a rope. The
wood is heavy and strong and is used in flooring. It was used in shipbuilding
and for farm implements, as well. Native Americans used various parts of
elm for the treatment of numerous ailments and diseases ranging from broken
bones and gunshot wounds to diarrhea and coughs.
Elm Disease article