An elm tree will provide a beautiful shade in your backyard with its large canopy so get to know the different types of elm trees and their unique characteristics.
Elm trees belong to the Ulmaceae family, particularly in the genus called Ulmus. This genus consists of 35 different species ranging from ornamental shade trees to forest trees. These trees are commonly native to North Temperate regions and most of them are popularly cultivated for their attractive foliage and incredible height. Other varieties are often sought for tough and sturdy elm wood.
There is a whole range of types of elm trees, each with unique features, characteristics, uses, and benefits. You can plant a variety of these trees in your backyard as beautiful shade trees since they tend to produce large canopies.
American Elm Tree
Also known as ulmus Americana, the American Elm Tree is a type of elm species that is native to Eastern North America. Much of this species naturally occurs from south to Florida and central Texas and further from Nova Scotia to Alberta.
These trees grow between an average height of 80 to 100 feet or about 24 to 30 meters. They are majorly characterized by their elliptical shaped leaves and a dark, gray ridged bark. Some of their other common names include gray elm, water elm, white elm, swamp elm, and Florida elm.
The American Elm is the largest of the elm species and is also an extremely hardy tree with an ability to withstand harsh cold weather conditions. Although these trees were much popular some time back because of their graceful branches that spread about like fountains, they lost their worth due to being susceptible to the Dutch elm disease. They are also prone to phloem necrosis, also called elms yellow which is a plant disease of the elm trees. They grow best in full sun conditions and require six hours of direct sunlight on a daily basis.
Camperdown Elm Tree
This is a weeping variety of the Wych elm and is also known by other less popular names such as weeping elm and umbrella elm. It is highly popular for its dense foliage and twisted branches and it is native to the United Kingdom.
The Camperdown elm tree was first discovered during the period of 1835 to 1840 in the forest at Camperdown House where it was growing as a young distorted elm. It was later replanted in the gardens of Camperdown House; however, the original tree was found to be growing below the average height of 3m. Another noticeable feature of this elm species is that it has a contorted branch structure with a weeping habit.
With a dense and domed crown, thick-green foliage and root-like branches, the Camperdown Elm Tree have gained much popularity over the years. During the spring season, this species of elm is covered with beautiful blossoms with bursts of small flowers that cover the dome entirely, turning the plant from dark green to a stunning light, silvery green color.
Cherry Bark Elm Tree
Also known as Marn elm, this species of elm is a deciduous tree and is one of the more distinctive types of Asiatic elms. It is quite well-known for its remarkable longevity and is most commonly found growing east of Asia in the Himalayas of Pakistan and Western India.
Like the American Elm, this elm species is also quite susceptible to the Dutch Elm Disease, but to a lesser extent. However, most of these trees growing in Britain have been destroyed by this very disease that was primarily spread by the elm bark beetle. These trees prefer growing under full sun and can easily thrive in moderate quality soils as long as they are properly, well-drained.
These species grow up to 25m in height and produce oblong-acute-elliptic shaped elm leaves with flowers that are densely clustered. They also have fairly smooth bark and the trees are branched rather lightly and pendulously. The samara or fruit that is produced by the Cherry bark elm tree is elliptic and interestingly, the bark of this species has possible anti-inflammatory effects on the human gut.
This is a less common species of elm that is also known as ‘red elm’ and mainly originates from the eastern half of the United States and southern Ontario. These trees rarely reach full maturity, primarily because they are vulnerable to a number of diseases, especially the Dutch elm disease.
The unique name of these elm species ‘slippery elm’ comes from the mucilage that is found within the inner bark of these trees. This mucilage has a great many medicinal benefits and is consumed by many people as a medicine for sore throat, coughs, hemorrhoids, urinary tract infections, constipation, and diarrhea.
The importance of the slippery elm or ulmust rubra as a part of herbal medicine has been identified since centuries as Native Americans and other early settlers used the bark of these species to heal wounds and give relief to irritated stomachs.
Slippery elm trees have an umbrella-shaped crown with a very high canopy and they also produce leaves that are quite rough to the touch.
European White Elm Tree
As the name of these species of elm suggests, the European White Elm tree is predominantly found in the whole of the Europe region, especially in floodplains and along most riverbanks. It is also by other common names like spreading elm, stately elm and fluttering elm.
These trees have a light, open crown that may sport a round or an oval shape. They are fast-growing deciduous trees that grow to an average height of 30-35 m. They produce glossy, dark green, asymmetric leaves that are about 6-12 cm in length with bright red flowers that grow in clusters mainly during March and April.
The fruits of the European White elm tree are roundish samaras and their bark is a pretty gray-green color that is initially very smooth but goes on to become fissured lengthwise after some time. These trees prefer growing moist, airy and fertile soils and in terms of soil moisture, they can withstand both short flood and long flood. Some of the best spaces to grow these beautiful trees include windbreaks, parks, cemeteries, theme parks, broad streets, and avenues.
Cedar Elm Tree
Best grown for its large shade canopy, the Cedar elm tree is a deciduous tree that is known by various other common names including lime elm, basket elm, Texas cedar elm, scrub elm and southern rock elm. This species of elm is native to south central North America and is particularly found in southern Oklahoma, eastern and Southern Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
This variety of elm grows really well is referred to as “cedar elm flats” which are basically the flat valley bottom areas. They grow about 24-27m tall and produce a very rounded crown. The leaves of these trees are quite small and are only 1-2 cm broad and 2-5 cm long.
The fruit of the cedar elm tree is an 8-10 mm long, small winged samara and it produces wind-pollinated apetalous flowers that typically bloom in the late summer or early fall. The flowers are distinguished by their gorgeous purple-reddish color, although they are quite small and inconspicuous.
Like many other elm species, the cedar elm is also susceptible to the Dutch elm disease, often attacked by the elm leaf beetle. This is one of the reasons why their popularity as ornamental and shade has decreased a great deal over the years.
David Elm Tree
This species of elm is also called Father David Elm and is one of the smaller elm varieties. It is a deciduous tree that is native to China and is widely distributed across the entire region. It is also found in great abundance in various other regions like Siberia, Mongolia, and Korea.
The David elm tree is known for its great resemblance to the American elm in various aspects except for the size. It has a relatively slender trunk and grows to an average height of 50 ft which makes about 15 m tall. These trees produce a heavy shade that is supported by a dense canopy.
The leaves of these trees are typically shaped obovate but are also often found to be obovate-elliptic. They have quite a rough upper surface and may develop a red color while growing. This tree is also known as Japanese elm and interestingly, it has trouble growing in areas that are well outside or away from its native range where it is found growing in profusion.
Also known as dwarf elm and Asiatic elm, the Siberian elm tree is described as very tenacious wit invasive traits which means that it can grow anywhere with quite an aggressive spread. This species of elm is native to Korea, Central Asia, Tibet, Mongolia, the Russian Far East, eastern Siberia, and India.
The Siberian elm or ulmus pumila is a small, bushy tree that grows to a height of about 35-65 ft which makes it almost 10-20m. The leaves produced by this tree are deciduous in cold regions as compared to warmer climates where they are more towards the semi-evergreen side.
They have perfect apetalous flowers that are wind-pollinated and they bloom in the early spring season. The fruit is oval shaped in a tan-colored flat samara and is notched at the outer end. They prefer moist and well-drained soils to grow to perfection; however, most of this species rarely reaches more than 60 years of age because they are really short-lived in temperate climates. This is especially true for those trees growing in non-native regions whereas the ones in native environments do manage to live between 100 to 150 years.
Chinese Elm Tree
This variety is also called lacebark elm and is native to several areas including Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Japan, Eastern Asia, and North Korea. The Chinese elm is a fast growing shade tree that grows to an average height of 33-59 ft tall and spreads over a width of 49-66 ft.
This tree produces a slender trunk and crown with single toothed, lush green leaves that are only 2-5 cm long. The leaves are also very glossy and delicate that greatly adds to the beauty of the whole tree. The bark is often mottled and adopts gorgeous shades of gray and green.
The Chinese elm tree has apetalous wind-pollinated flowers that are very small and barely visible that bloom in the early autumn season. These elm species are known for their tough, hardwood which is further used to produce things like bows, baseball hats, and tool handles, to name a few. These trees are popularly used as a street tree and a shade tree mainly in large patio areas and parking lots. Although they are drought-tolerant, they do prefer moist, well-drained soils and also prefer deep irrigation during the hot, dry summer weather.
Formerly referred to as Horse May and Common Elm, the English Elm tree is one of the most common cultivars of the field elm particularly in central southern England. Mature English elm trees grow to an average of 30m in height and have a lifespan of over 100 years.
The bark of this tree is rough and fissured and adopts a grey-brown color throughout its growing process. The leaves produced by these elm species are 4-9 cm in length which makes them a tad smaller than the ones produced by the wych elm. Their shape varies between round and oval and they are often toothed with a rough, hairy surface.
The English elm trees are hermaphrodites which means that the single, same flower contains both male and female reproductive parts. These flowers appear mainly in March and February and they adopt beautiful shades of pink and dark red as they hang in pretty tassels.
Fascinatingly, the English elm trees were once associated with death during historic times, mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, their wood was commonly used to make coffins and secondly, they always seemed to display a sort of eagerness to shed massive branches without any prior warning.
Rock Elm Tree
This elm tree was named for an American civil engineer called David Thomas since he was the first person to have named and described this tree during the 1830s. The Rock elm tree is also commonly known as cork elm tree and is widely distributed across the Midwestern United States. The name ‘cork elm’ has resulted from the fact that its branches often produce thick, irregular corky wings.
This tree is a hardwood deciduous that grows best in loamy soils especially found in regions like Lower Michigan, Ontario, and Wisconsin. The leaves of this tree are leathery with a tad hairy lower surface and smooth and shiny upper surface. The bark is usually shaggy and separated into ridges with the help of irregular furrows.
Rock elm trees prefer growing on heavy clay soils made of limestone ridges and require full sunlight for vigorous and rapid growth.
The best way to identify an elm tree is with the help of their green, toothed leaves and a rough, vase-like shape that makes these trees stand out from the rest!