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Ulmus americana

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Ulmus americana var. americana
Phonetic Spelling
ULM-us a-mer-ih-KAY-nah
Description

American Elm is a deciduous tree that may grow 80 to 100 feet tall. In nature, it can be found in swamps, bottomland forests, moist slopes, and in areas with especially nutrient-rich soils. The leaves are alternate with a doubly toothed margin and unequal base. The bark is ashy gray with flat-topped ridges separated by diamond-shaped fissures. In late winter, small flowers mature in clusters of 3 to 5. The tree produces a flattened samara with a hairy margin. The tree often is found growing in rich soils.

The American elm is a beautiful native shade tree in the Ulmaceae family.  It has a fibrous root system making it easy to transplant. Although it is susceptible to Dutch Elm disease, resistant cultivars are available and are currently being evaluated.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Seasons of Interest: 

   Blooms:   Winter             Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Early Spring

 

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Dutch elm disease, a fatal fungal disease spread by airborne bark beetles, attacks the water-conducting tissue of the tree, resulting in wilting, defoliation and death. Phloem necrosis is a disease caused by a phytoplasma that attacks the food-conducting tissue of this tree, usually resulting in a loosening of the bark, wilting, defoliation and death. Wetwood is a bacterial disease that results in wilting and dieback. Various wilts, rots, cankers and leaf spots may also occur. Insect visitors include borers, leaf miner, beetles, mealy bugs, caterpillars and scaleis.

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Creole Queen'
  • Liberty
  • New Harmony - disease resistant
  • 'Princeton'
  • 'Valley Forge' - Dutch elm disease resistant
Tags:
#rain garden#lumber#red#rich soil#street tree#loamy soil#cpp#sun#slopes#arching#wet soils tolerant#rough leaves#black walnut#small flowers#early winter flowers#sunshine#deciduous#dry soil#forests#Braham Arboretum#part sun#part shade#Piedmont Mountains FACW#rough#shade garden#high maintenance#fall color yellow#food source#bird friendly#red flowers#full sun#food source hard-mast fruit#shade tree#green#moth larvae#green flowers#low flammability#winter interest#food source spring#songbirds#samara#dry soils tolerant#spring fruits#fast growing#spreads#fruit#well-drained soil#NC native#compaction tolerant#shade#winter flowers#tree#disease resistant#early spring flowers#fruits#woodland#food source herbage#native#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#nesting#erect#urban conditions tolerant#deer resistant#butterfly larvae#leathery#fall color#loamy soils tolerant#small mammals#air pollution tolerant#woody#deciduous tree#loam#flowering tree#small and large mammals#larval host tree#gray bark#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#samaras#native tree#spreading#winter garden#spring interest#moths#gray#leathery leaves#partial sun#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#larval host plant#native garden#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#forest#moist soil#vase-shaped#coastal FAC#full sunlight#naturalized area#spring flowers
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Creole Queen'
  • Liberty
  • New Harmony - disease resistant
  • 'Princeton'
  • 'Valley Forge' - Dutch elm disease resistant
Tags:
#rain garden#lumber#red#rich soil#street tree#loamy soil#cpp#sun#slopes#arching#wet soils tolerant#rough leaves#black walnut#small flowers#early winter flowers#sunshine#deciduous#dry soil#forests#Braham Arboretum#part sun#part shade#Piedmont Mountains FACW#rough#shade garden#high maintenance#fall color yellow#food source#bird friendly#red flowers#full sun#food source hard-mast fruit#shade tree#green#moth larvae#green flowers#low flammability#winter interest#food source spring#songbirds#samara#dry soils tolerant#spring fruits#fast growing#spreads#fruit#well-drained soil#NC native#compaction tolerant#shade#winter flowers#tree#disease resistant#early spring flowers#fruits#woodland#food source herbage#native#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#nesting#erect#urban conditions tolerant#deer resistant#butterfly larvae#leathery#fall color#loamy soils tolerant#small mammals#air pollution tolerant#woody#deciduous tree#loam#flowering tree#small and large mammals#larval host tree#gray bark#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#samaras#native tree#spreading#winter garden#spring interest#moths#gray#leathery leaves#partial sun#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#larval host plant#native garden#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#forest#moist soil#vase-shaped#coastal FAC#full sunlight#naturalized area#spring flowers
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ulmus
    Species:
    americana
    Family:
    Ulmaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Lumber and pulpwood, firewood.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America
    Distribution:
    Eastern North America
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It is a host plant for butterflies and moths including the Painted Lady, Eastern Comma, Mourning Cloak, Question Mark, and Red Spotted Purple butterflies.  The seeds are eaten by songbirds and small mammals.
    Play Value:
    Shade
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Wildlife Nesting
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire and moderately resistant to damage from deer.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 80 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 60 ft. 0 in. - 120 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Erect
    Spreading
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Fruit Type:
    Samara
    Fruit Description:
    The flowers give way to single-seeded wafer-like samaras (each tiny seed is surrounded by a flattened oval-rounded papery wing). The seeds mature in April-May as the leaves reach full size. In North Carolina, fruits are available from March to April.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Winter
    Flower Description:
    The American elm has insignificant small green flowers that appear in spring before the foliage emerges. In North Carolina, flowers are available from February to March.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Rough
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Doubly Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The American elm has rough-textured, ovate-elliptic, dark green leaves (to 6” long) with toothed margins and asymetrical bases. The leaves typically turn an undistinguished yellow in fall.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    Flat braided ridges.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Rain Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Compaction
    Deer
    Diseases
    Drought
    Fire
    Heat
    Urban Conditions