There's a lot of information regarding elm trees and their leaves that is not part of common knowledge. Elm trees come from the genus Ulmus and are a species of semi-deciduous and deciduous trees. These are large shade trees that have the growing capability of up to 30 meters in height and 22 meters in width.
Elm species vary across their types, as some grow in an upright manner and are tall, while others grow in the shape of an umbrella canopy. One common factor that all elm trees share is their leaves - elm leaves have a peculiar oval shape with pointed ends, serrated edges, and noticeable veins.
There are up to 35 elm tree species, of which eight originate from North America. Other species of elms are known as Asiatic elms and consist of bushy and tall trees. These include the Indian, Eastern Siberian, Central Asian, and Chinese elm trees.
Facts About Elm Trees
The two main aspects that describe an elm tree are:
- It is a tall tree with ample shade.
- It has a wide outspread canopy.
These trees are a common addition to parks, house backyards, and the sides of residential streets, and they serve the purpose of providing shade in these areas.
Another differentiating factor of elm trees is that their bark is extensively crinkled and has elm leaves that are oval shaped, with zigzag edges. In addition, these trees also flower. They blossom in the spring while producing seeds enclosed in a thin oval shaped structure called a samara.
Elm trees also play an integral role in the timber industry because their wood is flexible, resistant to rotting, and quite strong. Therefore, elm wood makes for the perfect raw material for manufacturing various products, including archery bows, musical instruments, furniture, and ship keels.
Dutch Elm Disease
Another interesting fact about elm trees is that they are commonly associated with a particular fungal infection that grows within the tree's sapwood, called Dutch elm disease. This disease posed such a threat to the American elm tree species that it almost rendered them extinct.
To restrict the escalation of this disease, it is important to check for any signs of a sick elm tree and remove the tree instantly so that it doesn't pass its quick spread onto other elm trees in the vicinity.
Symptoms of Dutch elm disease include:
- Leaves turning yellow and wilting, before turning brown and falling off.
- Twigs turn downwards.
Elm Tree Leaves
Elm tree leaves have an oval appearance with saw toothed edges and a sharp end. The leaves also have noticeable green veins across them.
Interestingly, each half of the leaf varies in size, which can give a skewed appearance to the fringed leaf blade.
The dimensions for elm tree leaves are approximately 4 to 6 inches, i.e., 10-12 cm lengthwise, and a width of up to 2.5 inches, i.e., 7 cm.
The majority of these trees have elm tree leaves that fall on a spectrum of green, ranging from calming light green to striking dark green leaves. In fall, these leaves turn a faded or golden yellow color, which varies across elm species.
Elm Tree Bark
One of the most integral parts of an elm tree is its bark. The bark has a scaly appearance with deep creases and is a striking hybrid color of dark gray and brown. Furthermore, the creases are lined up vertically and commonly cut through each other. In some cases, the elm trees are named to depict the texture of the branches and the trunk, e.g. "the lacebark elm tree".
Elm Tree Seeds
Elm tree seeds have a rounded shape, are small, and coated with a thin oval layer, i.e., the samara. Each samara consists of a single seed and is light green. The seeds tend to grow in groups and take form post-flowering and scatter away from the tree in spring.
How Can I Identify An Elm Tree?
There are certain visual aspects that ensure that you won't miss an elm tree if you see one. Elm trees have a peculiar vase shaped canopy, double-edged margins, and sharp oval leaves. The flowers of the elm tree grow in groups that emerge in spring and grow into round shaped samaras. The dense foliage of the elm tree, on the other hand, turns a deep golden yellow shade in the Autumn season.
Types Of Elm Trees
Although there is a generic description that may be common across most elm trees, numerous species exist, and not all elms possess the same physical attributes. Therefore, let's look a bit further into the types of elm trees and how their appearance differs from each other.
The Ulmus Americana i.e. American Elm Tree
One of the most common yet popular types of elm tree is the American elm tree. These are large shade trees with canopies closely mimicking the shape of an umbrella.
American elm trees are also known as white elms and can grow as tall as 24 meters and as wide as 22 meters. However, the only major drawback is that this elm tree has taken a hit in its popularity due to its lack of resistance to the Dutch elm disease.
The American elm bark is colored a deep mixture of gray and brown and has fissures in the shape of diamonds with wide ridges.
American elm tree leaves have an elliptical shape and a height ranging from 3 to 5 inches along with a width of up to 3 inches. These elm tree leaves are green and have double-ridged edges. The surface of the leaf blade has a smooth texture and noticeable veins.
The Elm Tree Of Florida (Ulmus Americana Var. Florida)
The Florida elm tree varies from the Ulmus Americana due to its smaller size and the fact that it is a fast growing tree. These elm trees have a vase shaped canopy and dense foliage with elliptic-shaped leaves and ribbed margins. The bark of this tree closely resembles that of the Ulmus Americana.
The Chinese Elm Tree i.e Ulmus Parvifolia
Chinese elm trees are semi-deciduous or deciduous trees with a leafy crown and a slender trunk. These elm trees also go by drake elms or lacebark elms and can grow from 10 to 18 meters in height.
This specie is popular as it serves the purpose of a shade tree or a decorative landscape tree. Additionally, their resistance to the Dutch elm disease acts as a cherry on top, which is rare in the other elm tree species.
Chinese elm tree bark stands out due to its differentiating appearance. This flaky bark tends to shed to reveal little patches of orange-colored bark beneath. On the other hand, the leaves of the Chinese elm Ulmus are little, have single serrated margins, and have a leathery feel.
Bosque Elm Tree i.e. Ulmus Parvifolia
Bosque elm trees are a variant of the Chinese elm Ulmus and have a graceful presence due to their oval shaped canopy and drooping branches. Its popularity is common in residential streets and parks.
Its peeling bark and autumn leaves of a deep golden-red shade make it stand out among the elm species. These trees are typically less than 6 meters tall and are among the category of fast growing trees.
The Cedar Elm Tree
Also known as the Texas elm Ulmus, the cedar elm tree is a deciduous tree from North America. This tree grows up to 25 meters in height. Its foliage is fairly dense and creates a wide-spread rounded shape crown. These large trees have a rough bark along with little green oval leaves.
The Texas elms tend to shed in autumn. However, some growing areas cause them to remain lush and evergreen. The tree bark has medium fissures, is scaly, and is gray.
Cedar elm trees have tiny leaves when compared to other elm tree species. These zigzag-edged leaves are merely 5cm long and 2cm wide.
The Siberian Elm Tree i.e. Ulmus Pumila
These trees range from small to medium and have dense rounded crowns. They grow between 15 to 21 meters high and have distinctive features including winged seeds, small red flowers, and easily breakable branches.
The bark has vertical fissures running down the trunk and is gray.
This tree's leaves are dark green and have jagged margins. These leaves are 7cm long and 3cm wide.
The Japanese Elm Tree i.e., Zelkova Serrata
Japanese elm trees have a wide canopy, round shape, and fast-paced growth. A distinctive feature is their small trunk that divides into various branches. These can grow up to 16 meters in height. These Dutch elm disease-resistant trees are fairly popular as shade trees.
The Zelkova Serrata has a relatively smooth bark which can sometimes be flaky, and has a color ranging from gray-brown to gray-white.
These trees have light green ovate-shaped leaves with ribbed margins, a round base, and a pointy tip.
The Cherry Bark Elm i.e. Ulmus Villosa
The cherry bark elm tree grows up to 25 meters in height and has a round shape. They are big and leafy, and their branches tend to overshadow the smooth bark on its trunk. These Dutch elm disease-resistant trees have oval-shaped samaras instead of the common elm samaras.
These trees also have a smooth bark with areas of flakiness surrounding the trunk.
It has long leaves with saw-toothed edges in bright green color that grow up to 11 cm in height and 5 cm in width.
Wych Elm Tree i.e. Ulmus glabra
The Ulmus glabra has an umbrella-shaped canopy and can grow up to 40 meters in height, with its crown taking up most of its space. These trees have spread-out branches, short fat trunks, and feathered samaras. The gray bark is smooth in its initial growth years, and the mature trees of this specie develop fissures. Its leaves are 17cm long and 12cm wide with elliptical-shaped blades.
Golden Wych Elm
These are growers of the Ulmus glabra species and grow up to 15 meters in height and 20 meters in width. Its leaves are a lush bright yellow.
Another grower of the Ulmus glabra is the Camperdown elm tree with drooping branches, and a flat canopy. These grow between 4.5 to 7.5 meters tall, and the gray bark is smoother than the typical English elm and surrounds a tall, straight trunk.
The leaves are wide, double-jagged, bumpy, and noticeably weighed. These are up to 15cm in height.
English Elm Ulmus
These have hard leaves and rough barks and grow to 30 meters in height. The bark has fissures and is gray-brown. Its dark green leaves have jagged margins and can grow between 4 to 9 cm long.
Field Elm Ulmus
The Field elm ulmus have small leaves, a gracing presence, and a rough trunk. These can grow up to 30 meters in height, and the gray-brown bark is rough and resembles blocks. The leaves are smooth and small with sharp ends and can grow 6-15 cm in height.
Slippery Elm Ulmus
Closely mimicking American elms in appearance, the only difference is that slippery elms have brown branches, leafy twigs, and a red-colored inner bark. They can grow up to 12 to 18 meters in height. Its bark has a rough appearance with fissures, and its leaves are long as they go through the transition from red to deep green to yellow.
European White Elm Ulmus laevis
Its branches are formed loosely, and it has a round-shaped crown with a height of up to 30 meters. Its bark is white-gray and smooth in the early years and becomes fissured as it ages. As for the European white elm's leaves, they are elliptical-shaped and asymmetrical.
Dutch Elm Ulmus
These are a mixture of field elms and wych elms. They can grow up to 40 meters and have a cone-like shape, a light-colored crown, and jagged elliptical leaves.
Elm trees are versatile and come in numerous species, each with differing heights, widths, leaf types, and bark types. As a result, their distinctive features make them widely popular as shade trees and immensely hard to miss due to their graceful and tall presence.