10 American Elm
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Basic Information about this tree
  • Scientific Name: Ulmus americana
  • Common Names: White elm, water elm, ghostly elm
  • Deciduous 
  • Sunlight / Moisture / Soil preference: Tolerant of clay, loam, or sand, rich moist soil; tolerant of water found in lowlands, does well near water, high drought tolerance; Full to part shade
  • Flowering type: polygamo-monoecious, bearing staminate (male), pistillate (female), and bisexual (complete) flowers on the same plant OR with male and female flowers occurring separately but on the same individual tree.
  • Pollination strategy: Wind
  • Native 
  • Age Estimate/ Health: 15 years, healthy
  • Branch Structure: The main trunk usually divides into several erect arching limbs, giving the mature tree the shape of an umbrella or conical vase.
  • Mature size: 50-75 ft tall by 50-75 ft wide
  • Longevity: 175-200 years, rarely 300 years
  • GPS Coordinates N45.00279 W92.9035

Mature Tree in Winter/ Summer

10 American Elm summer pic

Leaves in Summer / Fall

10 American Elm leaves summer
10 American Elm fall leaf color

Flowers - Female & Male - monoecious

Female (l) and male (r) dangling clusters of 5 to 15 flowers from lateral buds on 1-year-old branches, flowers appearing before leaves emerge. Flowers have no petals, the light green to red, cone-shaped calyx is only about 1/8 inch wide with 6 to 9 irregular, papery lobes that wither quickly.

10 American Elm female flowers
10 American Elm male flowers

Fruit Unripe / Ripe

American Elm produce flat round “samaras” that have many fine hairs on a green body when first formed, and are edible, said to taste like peas. Then they mature into flat circular brownish “wings” like flying saucers. A samara is a dry, winged fruit that contains one seed and is also known as a key. The wing of a samara is made of papery tissue that comes from the ovary wall, and the shape of the samara allows the wind to carry the seed farther away from the tree than regular seeds

10 American Elm unripe samaras
10 American Elm ripe samaras

Bark of Mature Tree / root system sketch

Its bark is dark brown in color with a hint of grey and very rough in texture with distinctive fissures that deepen with age.

10 American Elm bark
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 Root spread can be larger than the height of the tree. Root system is shallow and fibrous. A tap root may develop in dry areas.

Uses in Traditional and Modern Eras

Value for wildlife: Although American elm is not considered a preferred browse, deer, rabbits, and hares will occasionally browse the leaves and twigs. The seeds are eaten by a number of small birds.

Utility for Humans: American elm is a sturdy wood used in building materials, furniture, ship building, pleasure boats. Dakotas used the  bark for their bark lodges. The samaras are edible, the immature ones are said to taste like peas.

Traditional uses in Native American Tree Medicine (historical): Information provided by Paul Red Elk, Lakota Medicine Man: American Elm is demulcent, is astringent, and diuretic. Strong tea made from outer bark from large branches. Used to treat bleeding from the lung’s lung ruptures, coughs, colds, influenza. Salve from the inner bark is used for muscle cramping



Links & References

Subject to “Dutch Elm Disease” which destroyed extensive elm plantings in the USA in the 20th Century. All elms have a long history with diseases dating back hundreds of years. Somehow the elms find a way to overcome their potential demise. Mature trees typically have branch-free trunks to a significant height, which made them ideal for planting along streets. 


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