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Overview

Brief Summary

Ulmaceae -- Elm family

    Calvin F. Bey

    American elm (Ulmus americana), also known as white elm,  water elm, soft elm, or Florida elm, is most notable for its  susceptibility to the wilt fungus, Ceratocystis ulmi.  Commonly called Dutch elm disease, this wilt has had a tragic  impact on American elms. Scores of dead elms in the forests,  shelterbelts, and urban areas are testimony to the seriousness of  the disease. Because of it, American elms now comprise a smaller  percentage of the large diameter trees in mixed forest stands  than formerly. Nevertheless, the previously developed silvical  concepts remain basically sound.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Calvin F. Bey

Source: Silvics of North America

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The American Elm (Ulmus americana) is a native North American tree in the Ulmaceae family. Growing quickly when young, the American Elm has a broad or upright, vase-shaped silhouette, 80 to 100 feet high and 60 to 120 feet wide. Trunks on older trees can reach to seven feet across. Trees have an extensive but shallow root system. Propagation is by seed or cuttings; young plants transplant easily.

The six inch long, deciduous, double serrated leaves are dark green throughout the year, fading to yellow before dropping in fall. In early spring, before the new leaves unfold, its rather inconspicuous small green flowers appear on pendulous stalks. These blooms are followed by green, wafer-like seedpods which mature soon after flowering is finished. The seeds are quite popular with both birds and wildlife. American Elms must be at least 15 years old before they will bear seed.

The wood of American Elm is very hard and was a valuable timber tree used for lumber, furniture and veneer. Native Americans once made canoes out of American Elm trunks, and early settlers would steam the wood so it could be bent to make barrels and wheel hoops.

Once a very popular and long-lived (300+ years) shade and street tree, American Elm suffered a dramatic decline with the introduction of Dutch elm disease, a fungus spread by a bark beetle. It is vital to the health of existing trees that a program of monitoring be in place to administer special care to these disease- and pest-sensitive trees.

  • Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson. US Forest Service Southern Group of State Foresters, US Department of Agriculture. Ulmus americana. Accessed 11 May 2012
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Comprehensive Description

Comments

This tree is one of the fallen icons of America, but it still lingers in diminished form. It is a reasonably attractive tree with shiny leaves. In the past, the wood was used to make furniture, flooring, crates, hockey sticks, and caskets. The wood is heavy, hard, and strong, but it lacks durability and has a tendency to warp. American Elm can be distinguished from other elms (Ulmus spp.) by considering the following characteristics
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

At maturity, this tree is 60-100' tall, forming a trunk 2-4' across and an arching crown with drooping branchlets. The trunk is long and undivided in forested areas, but it is shorter in open areas before dividing into major branches. On young trees, trunk bark is gray and slightly rough overall, but it often has irregular longitudinal stripes that are colored black and white. On older trees, trunk bark is gray and more furrowed. Branches and branchlets have gray bark that is more smooth, while twigs are smooth, brown, and terete. Alternate deciduous leaves occur along the twigs and branchlets; they are typically arranged in 2 rows. The leaf blades are 3-5" long and 1¼-3" across; they are ovate to ovate-obovate and doubly serrated along their margins. The upper surface of the blades is medium green and smooth to slightly rough in texture (hairs are not readily visible). The lower surface of the blades is pale green and largely hairless, except for small tufts of white hair in the axils of the major veins. The major veins on the leaf undersides are often short-pubescent or canescent. The petioles are whitish or yellowish green, often short-pubescent or canescent, and very short (less than ¼" in length). The leaf blades are pinnately veined with about 15 pairs of lateral veins. The lateral veins are relatively straight and run parallel to each other. On each side of the central vein, there are 0-3 lateral veins that become conspicuously forked near the leaf margins, otherwise they are undivided. Toward the tips of last year's branches, perfect flowers develop in small clusters of 3-5. There are several drooping flowers per cluster; their pedicels are about ½" long. Individual flowers are about 1/8" across, consisting of a short calyx with 7-9 lobes, an ovary with a divided style, and 7-9 stamens. The calyx is typically reddish green, while the anthers are red (but becoming dark-colored with age). These flowers bloom during early to mid-spring for about 1-2 weeks; they are cross-pollinated primarily by the wind. The flowers are replaced by flattened single-seeded samaras about 1/3" long and a little less across; they are ovate in shape, except for notches at their tips. The samaras have long hairs along their margins (ciliate), otherwise they are hairless. In the center of each samara is an ellipsoid seed that is somewhat flattened; it is surrounded by a membranous wing. At maturity during the late spring or early summer, the samaras usually become light tan (sometimes they are reddish). The samaras are distributed by the wind. In moist areas, the woody root system is shallow and spreading, but in dry areas it is more deep and develops a taproot. During the autumn, leaves turn yellow before falling to the ground.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

While there has been some population decline because of disease organisms, the native American Elm is still common within Illinois; it has been found in every county (see Distribution Map). Habitats include moist to mesic deciduous woodlands, savannas, woodland openings, woodland borders, wooded terraces along major rivers, flatwoods in upland areas, shaded banks of rivers and streams, higher ground in swamps, fence rows, and roadsides. Today, American Elm is found primarily as an understory tree in both higher quality habitats and disturbed areas. At one time, it was an important canopy tree in deciduous woodlands throughout the state, particularly in bottomland areas. Some older trees are still found in isolated urban areas. Prior to the mid-20th century, American Elm was often used as a landscape tree along streets.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: Throughout the eastern U.S., and along riparian habitat in the Great Plains.

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The typical variety of American elm (var. americana) is found throughout
eastern North America [5]. Its range extends from southern Newfoundland
westward through southern Quebec and Ontario, northwest through Manitoba
into eastern Saskatchewan, then south on the upper floodplains and
protected slopes of the Dakotas. It is found in the canyons and
floodplains of northern and eastern Kansas and in eastern Oklahoma and
central Texas. American elm is common along the Gulf Coast and east
into central Florida [9,7,29,43].
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 43. Newsome, R. D.; Kozlowski, T. T.; Tang, Z. C. 1982. Responses of Ulmus americana seedlings to flooding of soil. Canadian Journal of Botany. 60: 1688-1695. [5561]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]
  • 7. Brinkman, Kenneth A. 1974. Ulmus L. Elm. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 829-834. [7772]
  • 9. Collingwood, G. H. 1937. Knowing your trees. Washington, DC: The American Forestry Association. 213 p. [6316]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

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Occurrence in North America

AL AR CT DE FL GA HI IL IN KS
KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NE
NH NJ NY NC ND OH OK PA RI SC
SD TN TX VT VA WV WI MB NB NF
ON PQ SK

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American elm is found throughout Eastern North America. Its range  is from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, west to central Ontario,  southern Manitoba, and southeastern Saskatchewan; south to  extreme eastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming, western Nebraska,  Kansas, and Oklahoma into central Texas; east to central Florida;  and north along the entire east coast.

   
  The native range of American elm.


  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Calvin F. Bey

Source: Silvics of North America

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This is the most common elm in the eastern US. (Weeks et al, 2005) The tree is reported as widely escaped in Idaho, which is not part of the natural range. It is occasionally cultivated outside its native distribution, and it has escaped sporadically from cultivation. It is also reported as naturalized in Arizona. (FNA, 2006)

USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , MT , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , WY , DC (NPIN, 2008)

Canada: MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , QC , SK (NPIN, 2008)

Native Distribution: N.S., s. Man & s.e. Sask. & Crook Co. WY, s. to FL & c. TX (NPIN, 2008)

USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N) (NPIN, 2008)

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Man., N.B., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis., Wyo.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: perfect, tree

American elm is a deciduous, fast-growing, long-lived tree which may
reach 175 to 200 years old with some as old as 300 years [5,27,53]. In
dense forest stands, American elm may reach 100 to 200 feet (30-36 m) in
height and 48 to 60 inches (122-152 cm) in d.b.h. Heights of 80 feet
(24 m) are common on medium sites but on very wet or very dry soils, the
species is often 40 to 60 feet (12-18 m) tall at maturity [5,44,54]. In
the forest American elm often develops a clear bole 50 to 60 feet (15-18
m) in length. Open-grown trees fork 10 to 20 feet (3-6 m) from the
ground with several erect limbs forming a wide, arching crown [29,56].
The alternate, double-toothed leaves are 2 to 5 inches (5-10 cm) long
and 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.5 cm) wide. The dark gray bark is deeply
furrowed (9,15). The perfect flowers are borne in dense clusters of
three or four fascicles. The fruit is a samara consisting of a
compressed nutlet surrounded by a membranous wing [7,29].

The root system of American elm varies according to soil moisture and
texture. In heavy, wet soils the root system is widespreading, with
most of the roots within 3 to 4 feet (1.0 - 1.2 m) of the surface. On
drier soils, American elm develops a deep taproot [29].
  • 27. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 44. Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. 1953. Forest tree planting. 2d ed. Bull. No. R 1. Toronto, Canada: Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, Division of Reforestation. 68 p. [12130]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]
  • 53. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 54. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 56. Yeager, A. F. 1935. Root systems of certain trees and shrubs grown on prairie soils. Journal of Agricultural Research. 51(12): 1085-1092. [3748]
  • 7. Brinkman, Kenneth A. 1974. Ulmus L. Elm. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 829-834. [7772]

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Description

Trees , 21-35 m; crowns spreading, commonly vase-shaped. Bark light brown to gray, deeply fissured or split into plates. Wood soft. Branches pendulous, old-growth branches smooth, not winged; twigs brown, pubescent to glabrous. Buds brown, apex acute, glabrous; scales reddish brown, pubescent. Leaves: petiole ca. 5 mm, glabrous to pubescent. Leaf blade oval to oblong-obovate, 7-14 × 3-7 cm, base oblique, margins doubly serrate, apex acute to acuminate; surfaces abaxially glabrous to slightly pubescent, tufts in axils of veins, adaxially glabrous to scabrous. Inflorescences fascicles, less than 2.5 cm, flowers and fruits drooping on elongate pedicels; pedicel 1-2 cm. Flowers: calyx shallowly lobed, slightly asymmetric, lobes 7-9, margins ciliate; stamens 7-9; anthers red; stigmas white-ciliate, deeply divided. Samaras yellow-cream when mature, sometimes tinged with reddish purple (s range of species), ovate, ca. 1 cm, narrowly winged, margins ciliate, cilia yellow to white, to 1 mm. Seeds thickened, not inflated. 2 n = 56.
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Overall This is an erect tree. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) The tree is tall with an umbrella-shaped crown. (Peattie, 1930) Large trees are easily recognized by tall, clear trunks, open, spreading crowns, and graceful, drooping limbs that form a vase shape. It often has a buttressed base. (Weeks et al, 2005) This tree can develop three distinct habits including the vase-shaped form in which the trunk divides into several erect limbs strongly arched above and terminating in numerous slender, pendulous branchlets. A more wide-spreading and less arching form occurs, as well as a narrow form with branchlets clothing the entire trunk. This is a large, handsome, graceful tree, often with enlarged buttresses at base. (NPIN, 2008)

Flowers are green. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) Flowers are borne in axils on the old twigs. Calyx is bell-shaped and 4-9-lobed. Flowers hang on long drooping pedicels. (Peattie, 1930) Flowers bloom in clusters along the stem. (Hultman, 1978) They have no petals. (Weeks et al, 2005) Bloom color is red or green. (NPIN, 2008) Flowers are born on a shallowly lobed calyx. They are slightly asymmetric, with 7-9 lobes and ciliate margins. There are 7-9 stamens. Anthers are red and stigmas are white-ciliate and deeply divided. (FNA, 2006)

Fruit is brown. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) The samara (winged fruit) is rounded, the wing continuous all around except at the apex. Fruit may be oval or ovate, and is ciliate with fine hairs on the margins. (Peattie, 1930) Single seeds are each surrounded by a papery wing. (Hultman, 1978) Fruit is round and flat with hairy margins. The tip is deeply notched. (Weeks et al, 2005) The fruit is a yellowish to cream samara with narrow wings and hairy edges. Seeds are thick but not inflated. (UW, 2009) Samaras are yellow-cream when mature, though sometimes tinged with reddish purple (particularly in the Southern range of species). They are arrowly winged, with ciliate margins. Cilia are yellow to white. (FNA, 2006)

Leaves are green and coarse. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) Leaves are obovate-oblong and abruptly pointed. Leaves are oval, unequal-sided at the base, and sharply doubly serrate. They are rough above, dull green, and paler below. (Peattie, 1930) Elliptical with a coarsely double-toothed edge, and tapering to a point. (Hultman, 1978) Simple leaves that have a lop-sided base. Fall coloration is yellow. (Weeks et al, 2005) Dark-green leaves have variable fall color. (NPIN, 2008)

Stems This tree has a single stem growth habit. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) Erect arching branches form an umbrella-shaped crown. Twigs and buds are smooth or sparingly pubescent. (Peattie, 1930) Alternate branching is typical. Buds are elongate with chestnut-brown, slightly hairy scales. Twigs zig-zag from node to node. Lateral leaf buds lie against the twig. (Weeks et al, 2005) usually forked into many spreading branches, drooping at ends, forming a very broad, rounded, flat-topped or vaselike crown, often wider than high. (UW, 2009) Old-growth branches are smooth and not winged. Twigs are brown and pubescent to glabrous. (FNA, 2006)

Bark is flaky and gray. (Peattie, 1930) Bark is gray and tough. (Hultman, 1978) Bark is spongy until mature, and is tannish gray with thick, interlacing ridges. Inner bark is two-toned with light and dark layers. It is tan colored and spongy when young. (Weeks et al, 2005)

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Size

Tree height at 20 years is a maximum of 50' tall, at maturity 120.0' tall. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) Tree may be 50-100' tall. (Hultman, 1978) The tree was once 100'+ regularly, but is now more commonly 30-40'. (Weeks et al, 2005) It usually grows 60-80'. (NPIN, 2008)

Flowers inflorescence is less than 1" hanging cluster. (UW, 2009) Fascicles are less than 2.5 cm and the pedicel is 1-2 cm. (FNA, 2006)

Fruit is ovate and roughly 1 cm. Cilia to 1 mm. (FNA, 2006)

Leaves 4-6" long. (Hultman, 1978) Petiole is roughly 5 mm. Leaves are 7-14 × 3-7 cm. (FNA, 2006)

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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Ulmus americana var. aspera Chapman; U. americana var. floridana (Chapman) Little; U. floridana Chapman
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

While there has been some population decline because of disease organisms, the native American Elm is still common within Illinois; it has been found in every county (see Distribution Map). Habitats include moist to mesic deciduous woodlands, savannas, woodland openings, woodland borders, wooded terraces along major rivers, flatwoods in upland areas, shaded banks of rivers and streams, higher ground in swamps, fence rows, and roadsides. Today, American Elm is found primarily as an understory tree in both higher quality habitats and disturbed areas. At one time, it was an important canopy tree in deciduous woodlands throughout the state, particularly in bottomland areas. Some older trees are still found in isolated urban areas. Prior to the mid-20th century, American Elm was often used as a landscape tree along streets.
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Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: cover, swamp

American elm is common on wet flats and bottomlands but is not
restricted to these sites. In the southern bottomland regions, it
commonly occurs on terraces and flats but not in deep swamps. At higher
elevations in the Appalachians it is often limited to the vicinity of
larger streams and rarely occurs at elevations above 2,000 feet (610 m).
In the Lake States and Central States, it is found on plains and moraine
hills as well as the bottomlands and swamp margins. Along the
northeastern edge of its range, it is usually restricted to valleys
along waterways except where it has been planted on the uplands
[29,42,50].

American elm grows best on rich, well-drained loams. Growth is poor on
dry sands and where the summer water table is constantly high. In
Michigan, on loam and clay soils, growth is good when the summer water
table drops 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3.0 m) below the surface. In the South,
American elm is common on clay and silty-clay loams on bottomlands and
terraces. Growth is medium on wetter sites and good on well-drained
sites. In the arid western end of its range, American elm is restricted
to silt or clay loams in river bottoms and terraces. American elm most
commonly grows on soils of the orders Alfisols, Inceptisols, Mollisols,
and Ultisols [5,29,41].

In addition to those species mentioned in SAF Cover Types, common
associates of American elm include balsam fir (Abies balsamea), silver
maple (Acer saccharinum), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), pin oak
(Quercus palustris), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), white ash (Fraxinus
americana), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hackberry (Celtis
occidentalis), boxelder (Acer negundo), birch (Betula spp.), and hickory
(Carya spp.) [4,19,43,50].
  • 19. Fahey, Timothy J.; Reiners, William A. 1981. Fire in the forests of Maine and New Hampshire. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 108: 362-373. [9707]
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 4. Barnes, William J.; Dibble, Eric. 1988. The effects of beaver in riverbank forest succession. Canadian Journal of Botany. 66: 40-44. [2762]
  • 41. Hibbert, Alden R.; Ingebo, Paul A. 1971. Chaparral treatment effects on streamflow. In: Arizona watershed symposium proceedings 15: 25-34. [5501]
  • 42. Vander Kloet, S. P. 1989. Typification of some North American Vaccinium species names. Taxon. 38: 129-134. [8918]
  • 43. Newsome, R. D.; Kozlowski, T. T.; Tang, Z. C. 1982. Responses of Ulmus americana seedlings to flooding of soil. Canadian Journal of Botany. 60: 1688-1695. [5561]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]
  • 50. Twight, Peter A.; Minckler, Leon S. 1972. Ecological forestry for the Northern hardwood forest. Washington, DC: National Parks and Conservation Association. 12 p. [3508]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the terms: hardwood, swamp

16 Aspen
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
28 Black cherry - maple
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
42 Bur oak
46 Eastern redcedar
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
62 Silver maple - American elm
63 Cottonwood
85 Slash pine - hardwood
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
95 Black willow
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
101 Baldcypress
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest

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Soils and Topography

American elm is most common on flats and bottom lands throughout  its range but is not restricted to these sites. On the southern  bottom-land region, it is found widely in first bottoms and  terraces, especially on first bottom flats, but not in deep  swamps. At higher elevations in the Appalachians, it is often  limited to the vicinity of large streams and rarely appears at  elevations above 610 in (2,000 ft). In West Virginia, however, it  does appear in high coves at elevations of 760 in (2,500 ft). In  the Lake and Central States, it is found on plains and morainal  hills as well as on bottom lands and swamp margins. Along the  northwestern edge of the range, it is usually restricted to  valley bottoms along watercourses.

    Although American elm is common on bottom-land soils, it is found  on many of the great soil groups within its range. The soils  include well-drained sands, organic bogs, undifferentiated silts,  poorly drained clays, prairie loams, and many intermediate  combinations.

    American elm grows best on rich, well-drained loams. Soil moisture  greatly influences its growth. Growth is poor in droughty sands  and in soils where the summer water table is high. In Michigan,  on loam and clay soils, growth is good when the summer water  table drops 2.4 to 3.0 in (8 to 10 ft) below the surface, medium  with summer water table at 1.2 to 2.4 in (4 to 8 ft), and poor  when topsoil is wet throughout the year. On sandy soils underlain  with clay, growth is medium to good where the summer water table  is 0.6 m (2 ft) or more below the soil surface. Organic soils are  usually poor sites, but those with a summer water table at least  0.6 m (2 ft) below the surface are classed as medium sites for  American elm.

    In the South, American elm is common on clay and silty-clay loams  on first bottoms and terraces; growth is medium on wetter sites  and good on well-drained flats in first bottoms (8). In the and  western end of the range, it is usually confined to the silt or  clay loams in river bottoms and terraces. In shelterbelt  plantings on the uplands, however, survival is generally best on  sandy soils where the moisture is more evenly distributed to  greater depths than in fine-textured soils. American elm most  commonly grows on soils of the orders Alfisols, Inceptisols,  Mollisols, and Ultisols.

    Soil acidity under stands of American elm varies from acid on some  of the swamp margin sites in the Lake States to mildly alkaline  on the prairie soils. A soil reaction considered suitable for  this species ranges from pH 5.5 to 8.0.

    Leaf litter of American elm decomposes more rapidly than that of  sugar maple (Acer saccharum), shagbark hickory (Carya  ovata), white oak (Quercus alba), and northern red  oak (Q. rubra). Under Missouri conditions, the  leaves crumble readily after 18 months on the ground. They have a  relatively high content of potassium and also of calcium (1 to 2  percent). Because its litter decomposes rapidly and contains many  desirable nutrients, American elm is considered a "soil-improving"  species.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Calvin F. Bey

Source: Silvics of North America

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Climate

Within the natural range of American elm, the climate varies from  warm and humid in the southeast to cold and dry in the northwest.  Average temperatures are as follows: January, from -18° C (0°  F) and below in Canada and 16° C (60° F) in central  Florida; July, from 16° C (60° F) in Manitoba to 27°  C (80° F) in the Southern States; annual maximum, 32° C  (90° F) to 35° C (95° F) in the Northeast and 38°  C (100° F) to 41° C (105° F) in the South and  West; annual minimum, from -40° C (-40° F) to -18°  C (0° F) in the North and -18° C (0° F) to -1°  C (30° F) in the South.

    Average annual precipitation varies from a scarce 380 min (15 in)  in the Northwest to a plentiful 1520 mm (60 in) on the gulf  coast. Over the central part of the species range there are about  760 to 1270 min (30 to 50 in) per year. Throughout the range most  of the precipitation comes during the warm (April-September)  season. Average annual snowfall generally varies from none in  Florida to about 200 cm (80 in) in the Northeast. A few areas,  mainly around the Great Lakes, get 254 to 380 cm (100 to 150 in)  of snow per year.

    The average frost-free period is about 80 to 160 days for the  northern tier of States and Canada to about 200 to 320 days for  the gulf coast and Southeastern States.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Calvin F. Bey

Source: Silvics of North America

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Alluvial woods, swamp forests, deciduous woodlands, fencerows, pastures, old fields, waste areas; planted as street trees; 0-1400m.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Habitat constitutes rich meadows and stream bottoms along morainal borders. Occasional in red maple swamps back of high dunes. (Peattie, 1930) Most common in bottomlands. (Hultman, 1978) Common in moist to wet, rich woods and flood-plains. (Weeks et al, 2005) Native habitat consists of stream banks and lowland areas. (NPIN, 2008) Habitat includes alluvial woods, swamp forests, deciduous woodlands, fence-rows, pastures, old fields, and waste areas. It is also planted as street trees. Elevation from 0-1400 m. (FNA, 2006)
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Associations

Faunal Associations

Even though the flowers are primarily wind-pollinated, honeybees sometimes collect pollen from them, and they may function as minor pollinators. This is possible because the flowers are perfect, rather than unisexual. Some insects feed on the foliage and other parts of American Elm and other elms (Ulmus spp.); this includes the caterpillars of the butterflies Polygonia comma (Comma) and Polygonia interrogationis (Questionmark). Elms are also host plants for the caterpillars of Nerice bidentata (Double-Toothed Prominent), Ceratomia amyntor (Elm Sphinx), and other moths. Elms are the winter hosts of several Eriosoma spp. (Woolly Aphids); they are also hosts of Calopha ulmicola (Elm Cockscomb Aphid) and Tinocallis ulmifolii (Elm Leaf Aphid). Other insect feeders include Gossyparia spuria (European Elm Scale), Corythucha ulmi (Elm Lace Bug), the plant bugs Lygocoris invitus and Reuteria irrorata, and many leafhoppers (primarily Eratoneura spp. & Erythridula spp.). American Elm is a preferred host plant of the following leafhoppers
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© John Hilty

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Flower-Visiting Insects of American Elm in Illinois

Ulmus americana (American Elm)
(honeybees collect pollen; this tree is wind-pollinated; all observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera cp fq

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Associated Forest Cover

Throughout its range, American elm seldom grows in pure stands and  is usually found in mixture with other species. It is a major  component of four forest cover types: Black Ash-American Elm-Red  Maple (Society of American Foresters Type 39), Silver  Maple-American Elm (Type 62), Sugarberry-American Elm-Green Ash  (Type 93), and Sycamore-Sweetgum-American Elm (Type 94). It is a  minor component in 20 other forest types.

    Black Ash-American Elm-Red Maple (Type 39) appears throughout the  Northern Forest and into the Boreal Forest in Canada, and  throughout the Lake States and into the northern edge of the  Central Forest. In this type the most common associates, other  than the type species, are as follows: In the Lake States and  Canada, balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), balsam  fir (Abies balsamea), and yellow birch (Betula  alleghaniensis); in Ohio and Indiana, silver maple (Acer  saccharinum), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), sycamore  (Platanus occidentalis), pin oak (Quercus palustris),  black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), and eastern  cottonwood (Populus deltoides);
in New England and  eastern Canada, sweet birch (Betula lenta), paper birch  (B. papyrifera), gray birch (B. populifolia), silver  maple, and black spruce (Picea mariana); and in New York,  white ash (Fraxinus americana), slippery and rock elms  (Ulmus rubra and U. thomasii), yellow birch,  black tupelo, sycamore, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis),  bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), swamp white oak, and  silver maple.

    Silver Maple-American Elm (Type 62) is common throughout the  Central Forest and extends into Canada. Major associates in this  type are sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), pin oak,  swamp white oak, eastern cottonwood, sycamore, green ash (Fraxinus  pennsylvanica), and other moist site hardwoods.

    Sugarberry-American Elm-Green Ash (Type 93) is found throughout  the Southern Forest within the flood plains of the major rivers.  Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) replaces sugarberry (C.  laevigata) in the northern part of the range. Major  associates are water hickory (Carya aquatica), Nuttall  (Quercus nuttallii), willow (Q. phellos), water  (Q. nigra), and overcup (Q. lyrata) oak,  sweetgum, and boxelder (Acer negundo).

    Sycamore-Sweetgurn-American Elm (Type 94) appears as scattered  stands throughout the Southern Forest region and lower Ohio River  Valley. Common associates include green ash, sugarberry,  hackberry, boxelder, silver maple, cottonwood, black willow (Salix  nigra), water oak, and pecan (Carya illinoensis).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Calvin F. Bey

Source: Silvics of North America

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Recently it has been decimated by Dutch Elm Disease. (Hultman, 1978) This introduced pathogen, Ophiostoma ulmi hit city trees particularly fiercely. Dutch Elm Disease is spread by a beetle typically and is a fungus. Snags with peeling bark from the disease may produce valuable wildlife cover. Gray and fox squirrels feed heavily on flower buds. Fallen mature seeds are used by small rodents and wood ducks. Foliage is taken by white-tailed deer and woodchucks. Cover is used by nesting shrubland birds. (Weeks et al, 2005) Population was ravaged by the Dutch Elm disease, caused by a fungus introduced accidentally about 1930 and spread by European and native elm bark beetles. (NPIN, 2008)

Wildlife uses include seed eating by granivorous birds, bird cover, bird nesting sites, and substrate for insectivorous birds. Seeds feed small mammals. It is a larval host for Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Columbia silkmoth (Hyalophora columbia), Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), and Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma). (NPIN, 2008)

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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Since 1930, when Dutch elm disease  reached the United States in a shipment of elm logs from Europe,  it has spread to 41 States from coast to coast. The causal  fungus, Ceratocystis ulmi, is introduced into the sap  stream of twigs or small branches during feeding by the smaller  European elm bark beetle, Scolytus multistriatus, and the  native elm bark beetle, Hylurgopinus rufipes. Dutch elm  disease is characterized by a gradual wilting and yellowing of  the foliage, usually followed by death of the branches and  eventually the whole tree (5,14).

    In addition to Dutch elm disease, several other diseases also are  responsible for losses in shade and forest elms. Phloem necrosis,  caused by a virus (Morsus ulmi) is detected by flagging  or browned leaves and butterscotch-colored phloem with a  wintergreen odor. It is transmitted by the whitebanded elm  leafhopper (Scaphoideus luteolus) and through root  grafts. Trees usually die within a year after symptoms appear.  Verticillium wilt (Verticillium albo-atrum) is soil borne  and usually enters host plants through the roots. Trees show  dieback symptoms similar to Dutch elm disease (10). Other  diseases include diebacks caused by Cephalosporium spp.  and Dothiorella ulmi; a leaf black spot (Gnomonia  ulmea); twig blight (Cytosporina ludibunda); cankers  (Nectria spp., Sphaeropsis ulmicola, and Phytophthora  inflata); elm wetwood (Erwinia nimipressuralis); and  elm mosaic virus (3,4). Some of the common wood rot fungi  are Pleurotus ulmarius, P. ostreatus, Armillaria melleaGanoderma applanatum, Phellinus igniarius, and numerous  species of Polyporus.

    American elm is attacked by hundreds of insect species including  defoliators, bark beetles, borers, leaf rollers, leaf miners,  twig girdlers, and sucking insects. The carpenterworm (Prionoxystus  robinae) bores into the sapwood and degrades the wood. Among  the insects that defoliate elm are the spring cankerworm (Paleacrita  vernata), the forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma  disstria), the elm leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta luteola), the  whitemarked tussock moth (Orgyia leucostigma), the elm  spanworm (Ennomos subsignaria), and many other  leaf-eating insects that attack elm and other hardwoods. The elm  cockscombgall aphid (Colopha ulmicola) forms galls on the  leaves but does little damage to the tree. Several scale insects  attack elm and may cause damage. Both the elm scurfy scale (Chionaspis  americana) and the European elm scale (Gossyparia spuriaare widely distributed. Among the leafhoppers, the  whitebanded elm leafhopper is classed as a serious pest since it  is the vector for phloem necrosis (15).

    Besides insect and disease losses, animal damage, and fire,  climatic factors also can have an impact on survival and growth  of American elm. Young forest trees may sunscald when exposed by  harvesting or thinning operations. Open-grown American elm forks  and develops a widespread crown that is susceptible to injury by  heavy, wet snows and glaze storms. Of 37 tree species examined  after an ice storm in Illinois, American elm ranked fourth in  susceptibility to ice damage. In dense stands, such injuries are  less severe and are not generally a management problem. Although  American elm is shallow rooted in wet soils, it is fairly  windfirm because the roots are widespread.

    The species is reasonably drought resistant, but prolonged drought  reduces growth and may cause death. During the drought of 1934,  in the Midwest prairie region, losses of American elm and  associated species ran as high as 80 to 90 percent. The 1951-54  drought also caused severe losses in the bottom lands of the  South where American elm was more susceptible to drought than the  lowland red oaks. Prolonged spring floods may cause death or  growth loss. Despite suitable temperatures, in Minnesota bottom  lands root elongation does not begin until the spring floods  recede and soil aeration increases. On these sites and where  trees are planted between street and sidewalk, buttress roots  often are a result of inadequate soil aeration.

    Fire damage is not a major management problem in the North;  however, in southern bottom lands, fall and sometimes early  spring fires are extremely damaging. Fires can kill seedling- and  sapling-size trees and wound larger trees, thus admitting  heartrot fungi.

    Animal damage to American elm, from the sapling stage to maturity,  is not a serious problem except for sapsucker injury that  degrades the wood.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Calvin F. Bey

Source: Silvics of North America

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Still common, but less abundant than several decades ago.

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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General Ecology

Urban Ecology

An individual Ulmus americana was the largest street tree in Brooklyn (at 60.5 inches in diameter) and this species was the ninth most abundant street tree in Manhattan according to a 2005-2006 street tree census of New York City (available at: http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/trees_greenstreets/images/treecount_report.pdf)

This species is included in the New York Metropolitan Flora Project of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Click here more information, including a distribution map for the New York metro area http://nymf.bbg.org/species/495.

This species is grown by the Greenbelt Native Plants Center on Staten Island, NY. This facility is part of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and its purpose is to support and promote the use of native species in planting projects. For more information, go to: http://www.nycgovparks.org/greening/greenbelt-native-plant-center.

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© O'Donnell, Kelly

Source: Urban Flora of NYC

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Fire Management Considerations

More info for the term: top-kill

Fire is usually not a major management consideration for American elm in
the North, but in the southern bottomlands, fall and early spring fires
are extremely damaging. Most fires will top-kill seedlings and saplings
and wound larger trees, providing an entry point for heart-rot fungi
[20,40].
  • 20. Fennell, Norman H.; Hutnik, Russell J. 1970. Ecological effects of forest fires. Unpublished paper on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 84 p. [16873]
  • 40. McMurphy, Wilfred E.; Anderson, Kling L. 1965. Burning Flint Hills range. Journal of Range Management. 18: 265-269. [30]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the term: top-kill

American elm is easily damaged by fire [11]. Low- and moderate-severity
fires top-kill trees up to sapling size and will wound larger trees
[29]. In a study of the fire effects on 2- to 8-year old American elm
trees in the Missouri prairie, two spring fires of unreported severity
in March and April caused dieback of 40 and 90 percent, respectively
[33].

American elm suffered complete tissue death when the cambium was exposed
to a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 deg C) for 20 minutes
[31].
  • 11. Daubenmire, Rexford F. 1936. The "big woods" of Minnesota: its structure, and relation to climate, fire, and soils. Ecological Monographs. 6(2): 233-268. [2697]
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 31. Helgerson, Ole T. 1990. Heat damage in tree seedlings and its prevention. New Forests. 3: 333-358. [14771]
  • 33. Kucera, C. L.; Ehrenreich, John H. 1962. Some effects of annual burning on central Missouri prairie. Ecology. 43(2): 334-336. [1382]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the term: secondary colonizer

Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker
Secondary colonizer - on-site seed
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

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Fire Ecology

Fire rarely occurs in the moist areas where American elm typically
grows. When fire does occur and conditions are dry, American elm
greatly decreases following fire [12]. Wind- and water-dispersed seed
are important in the survival of American elm following fire [28].
After being top-killed, young American elm will sprout from the base
following fire [5].
  • 12. Daubenmire, R. F. 1949. Relation of temperature and daylength to the inception of tree growth in spring. Botanical Gazette. 110: 464-475. [12757]
  • 28. Godman, Richard M.; Mattson, Gilbert A. 1976. Seed crops and regeneration problems of 19 species in northeastern Wisconsin. Res. Pap. NC-123. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 5 p. [3715]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: climax, hardwood

Faculative Seral Species.

American elm is classed as intermediate in tolerance among eastern
hardwoods [50]. It usually responds well to release. Once it becomes
dominant in a mixed hardwood stand, it is seldom overtaken by the other
species. It can persist for years as an intermediate but will be
replaced by tolerant hardwoods such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum) or
beech (Fagus grandifolia) if suppressed. Although American elm is not
listed as a key species in the climax types on moist sites, it is
usually one of the associated species [29,32].
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 32. Kittredge, J., Jr. 1934. Evidence of the rate of forest succession on Star Island, Minnesota. Ecology. 15(1): 24-35. [10102]
  • 50. Twight, Peter A.; Minckler, Leon S. 1972. Ecological forestry for the Northern hardwood forest. Washington, DC: National Parks and Conservation Association. 12 p. [3508]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: epigeal, tree

Seed production and dissemination: American elm seed production may
begin as early as age 15 but is seldom abundant before age 40. When
mature, American elm is a prolific seed producer. Trees as old as 300
years have been reported to bear seed [5]. In closed stands, seed
production is greatest in the exposed tops of trees. The winged seeds
are light and readily disseminated by the wind. Although most seeds
fall within 300 feet (90 m) of the parent tree, some may be carried 0.25
mile (0.4 km) or more. In riverbottom stands, the seeds may be carried
by the water for miles. Cleaned, unwinged seeds average 70,900 per
pound (156,000/kg) [28,46,53].

Seedling development: Germination in American elm is epigeal. Seeds
usually germinate soon after they fall, although some seeds remain
dormant until the following spring. Germination is usually 6 to 12 days
but may extend over a period of 60 days. Dormancy may be overcome by
stratification in sand for 60 days at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 deg C).
The seeds germinate best with night temperatures of 68 degrees
Fahrenheit (20 deg C) and day temperatures of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30
deg C). The germination capacity averages about 65 percent
[7,10,29,46].

Vegetative reproduction: American elm will reproduce fairly vigorously
by stump sprouts from small trees. Large trees 150 to 250 years old
seldom sprout after cutting [29]. Observations in undisturbed
bottomlands of Minnesota suggest that replacement of American elm may be
by root suckering [5].
  • 10. Cram, W. H.; Lindquist, C. H.; Thompson, A. C. 1966. Seed viability studies: American and Siberian elm. Summer Report Tree Nursery Saskatchewan. 1965: 8-9. [6561]
  • 28. Godman, Richard M.; Mattson, Gilbert A. 1976. Seed crops and regeneration problems of 19 species in northeastern Wisconsin. Res. Pap. NC-123. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 5 p. [3715]
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 46. Streng, Donna R.; Glitzenstein, Jeff S.; Harcombe, P. A. 1989. Woody seedling dynamics in an east Texas floodplain forest. Ecological Monographs. 59(2): 177-204. [6894]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]
  • 53. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 7. Brinkman, Kenneth A. 1974. Ulmus L. Elm. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 829-834. [7772]

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Life Form

More info for the term: tree

Tree

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Plant Response to Fire

Young American elm will sprout from the base following fire [1,25].

The Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provides information on
postfire responses of several plant species, including American elm,
that was not available when this species review was originally written.
  • 1. Abrams, Marc D. 1986. Ecological role of fire in gallery forests in eastern Kansas. In: Koonce, Andrea L., ed. Prescribed burning in the Midwest: state-of-the-art: Proceedings of a symposium; 1986 March 3-6; Stevens Point, WI. Stevens Point, WI: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources, Fire Science Center: 73-80. [16271]
  • 25. George, Ronnie R.; Farris, Allen L.; Schwartz, Charles C.; [and others]. 1978. Effects of controlled burning on selected upland habitats in southern Iowa. Iowa Wildlife Research Bulletin No. 25. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Conservation Commission Wildlife Section. 38 p. [4422]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

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Reaction to Competition

American elm is classed as  intermediate in shade tolerance among the eastern hardwoods.  Usually it responds well to release, often growing more rapidly  than its associates at advanced ages. Once it becomes dominant in  a mixed hardwood stand, it is seldom overtaken by other species.  It can persist in the understory of pioneer species such as  eastern cottonwood, black willow, and quaking aspen (Populus  tremuloides) but dies if suppressed by tolerant sugar maple  or American beech (Fagus grandifolia).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Rooting Habit

The depth of rooting varies with soil  texture and soil moisture. In heavy, wet soils the root system is  widespread and within 0.9 to 1.2 m (3 to 4 ft) of the surface. On  drier medium-textured soils, the roots usually penetrate 1.5 to  3.0 m (5 to 10 ft). In deep, relatively dry sands in the Dakotas,  American elm may develop a taproot reaching 5.5 to 6.1 m (18 to  20 ft) down to the water table.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

The time of flowering, seed ripening, and seed fall varies by about 100
days between the Gulf Coast and Canada. The flower buds swell early in
February in the South and as late as May in Canada. The trees are in
flower 2 to 3 weeks before the leaves unfold. The fruit ripens as the
leaves unfold or soon afterward. The seed is dispersed as it ripens and
seed fall is usually complete by the middle of March in the South and by
the middle of June in the North [3,7,29].
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 3. Ahlgren, C. E. 1957. Phenological observations of nineteen native tree species in northeastern Minnesota. Ecology. 38(4): 622-628. [74]
  • 7. Brinkman, Kenneth A. 1974. Ulmus L. Elm. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 829-834. [7772]

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Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering winter-early spring.
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Active growth period is Spring and Summer, and is rapid. The tree is deciduous. Blooming occurs in Early Spring. Fruit/seed period begins in Spring and ends in Spring. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) Flowering occurs in April and May. (Peattie, 1930) Flowering is March to May. Seeds are produced April to May. (Hultman, 1978) Fall coloration is yellow. Large flowers may appear in February further South. (Weeks et al, 2005) Bloom time is February, March, and April. (NPIN, 2008)
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Life Cycle

Persistence: DECIDUOUS

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan is moderate. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) Formerly it was long-lived. Trees to 400 years old have been documented. It now rarely survives to maturity at 150 years of age because of Dutch Elm Disease. (Weeks et al, 2005)
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Reproduction

Samaras are wind dispersed, typically within 90 m of the tree but some can be dispersed up to 0.4 km. Waterways can carry seeds for many kilometers (Coladonato 1992).

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Vegetative Reproduction

Small American elm trees produce  vigorous stump sprouts. Although not documented, some  observations suggest that replacement in dense, undisturbed  bottom-land stands in Minnesota may be by root suckers of mature  trees.

    American elm can be propagated by softwood cuttings taken in June  and treated with indolebutyric acid or by leaf bud cuttings. In a  test, greenhouse-grown stock rooted easier than field-grown  stock. Propagation by dormant root cuttings has not been  effective.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seedling Development

Germination in American elm seed is  epigeal. It usually germinates soon after it falls, although some  seeds may remain dormant until the following spring. While  germination may extend over a period of 60 days, most of the  seeds germinate in 6 to 12 days. Germination is best with night  temperatures at 20° C (68° F) and day temperatures of  30° C (86° F). However, germination is almost as good  when daily temperatures range between 10° C (50° F) and  21° C (70° F). Seeds can germinate in darkness, but  germination increases in light. Seeds also can lie on flooded  ground for as long as 1 month with little adverse effect on  germination, except possibly where siltation occurs in flooded  bottoms.

    American elm seedlings can become established on moist litter,  moss, and decayed logs and stumps, but do best on mineral soil.  Although they do grow in full sunlight, seedlings perform best  with about one-third of full sunlight during the first year.  After the first year or two, they grow best in full sunlight.  Seedlings that develop in saturated soils are stunted and  characterized by early yellowing and loss of the cotyledons,  extremely short internodes, and small leaves.

    American elm can withstand flooding in the dormant season but dies  if the flooding is prolonged into the growing season. Compared  with other bottomland species, American elm is intermediately  tolerant to complete inundation. Some may be killed by early fall  frosts, but those that survive soon are hardened by temperatures  alternating between 0° C (32° F) and 10° C (50°  F). A constant temperature of 0° C (32° F) for 5 days  also hardens the seedlings enough to avoid frost killing (7).

    Studies in Iowa and southeastern Michigan on wet lowland and  upland mesic sites show that despite high mortality from Dutch  elm disease, the next generation will be much like the last.  Although American elm has been essentially eliminated from the  overstory, it is a significant part of the understory and  seedling layers. Some observations suggest that there will be a  shift toward more intolerant species under the dead elms.  American elm may be perpetuated for generations, even though the  average life span of the trees is likely to be reduced. Where  seeds are available, American elm is a prominent early invader of  abandoned fields. On upland sites in the Midwest, fire, as a  natural component of the environment, has kept American elm from  invading the prairies (1,2,12,13).

    In determining vegetational patterns and succession, allelopathy  is apparently not as important for species coming in under  American elm as it is for species coming in under sycamore,  hackberry, northern red oak, and white oak. In a test in  Missouri, there was lower productivity and higher percent soil  moisture under all test species but American elm. This apparently  was due to toxic leaf leachate present from the four test  species, but not present in leachate from American elm (11).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seed Production and Dissemination

Seed production in  American elm may begin as early as age 15 but is seldom abundant  before age 40. When mature, American elm is a prolific seed  producers Trees as old as 300 years have been reported to bear  seeds. In closed stands, seed production is greatest in the  exposed tops of dominant trees. The winged seeds are light and  readily disseminated by the wind. Although most seeds fall within  91 in (300 ft) of the parent tree, some may be carried 0.4 kin  (0.25 mi) or more. In river-bottom stands, the seeds may be  waterborne for miles. Cleaned but not dewinged seeds average  156,000/kg (70,900/lb).

    Adverse weather may reduce the seed crop. Spring frosts can injure  and kill both flowers and fruit. Observations in Minnesota showed  that while nearly ripe seeds were not injured by night  temperatures of -3° C (27° F) for several successive  nights, most were killed a week later when the temperature  dropped to -7° C (19° F) and remained below freezing  for 60 hours.

    Mammals and birds also may reduce the seed crop. The flower buds,  flowers, and fruit are eaten by gray squirrels. The seeds are  also eaten by mice, squirrels, opossum, ruffed grouse, Northern  bobwhite, and Hungarian partridge.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

The process of flowering, seed  ripening and seed fall in American elm takes place in the spring  throughout the range. The glabrous flower buds swell early in  February in the South and as late as May in Canada. The flowers  appear 2 to 3 weeks before leaf flush. Soon after wind  pollination occurs, the fruit ripens, and seed fall is usually  complete by mid-March in the South and mid-June in the North.

    American elm flowers are typically perfect and occur on long,  slender, drooping pedicels, about 2.5 cm (1 in) long, in 3- or  4-flowered short-stalked fascicles. The anthers are bright red,  the ovary and styles are light green, and the calyx is green  tinged with red above the middle. With controlled pollinations,  floral receptivity is greatest when stigma lobes are reflexed  above the anthers. The trees are essentially self-sterile. A test  in Canada showed only 1.5 percent viable seed from  self-pollinated flowers. Pollination may be hampered in a wet  spring since the flower anthers will not open in a saturated  atmosphere (9).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

American elm seldom grows in pure stands  and there is no information on stand yields. On good sites in  dense forest stands American elm may reach 30 to 38 m (98 to 125  ft) in height and 122 to 152 cm (48 to 60 in) in d.b.h., with a  15 m (49 ft) clear bole. On medium sites, heights of 24 m (80 ft)  are common. On very wet soils or on the very dry soils of the  Plains, however, the species is often only 12 to 18 m (40 to 60  ft) tall at maturity. In open-grown or sparse stands, the trees  usually fork near the ground and form wide arching crowns.  American elm is a long-lived species, often reaching 175 to 200  years, with some older than 300 years.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

The study of genetics in American elm has been primarily directed  toward combining resistance to Dutch elm disease with desirable  growth Characteristics. Only a few selections from American elm  look promising at this time. Noteworthy is the "American  Liberty" elm, a multiclonal variety selected from  second-generation crosses of the most resistant parents. Despite  high selection intensity, their resistance is still inferior to  resistant cultivars derived from Asian or European sources.

    A few horticultural forms have been recognized. These are Ulmus  americana columnaris, a form with a narrow columnar head,  U. americana ascendens, with upright branches, and Uamericana pendula, with long pendulous branches.

    Hybridization within the genus Ulmus has been aimed  primarily at breeding for Dutch elm disease and phloem necrosis  resistance. Because of the difficulty of hybridizing American  elm, which has a chromosome number twice that of all the other  elms (56 versus 28), most of the breeding and selection work does  not include American elm. Thousands of attempts to cross the  American with the Siberian elm have failed. Reports of successful  artificial hybridization and verification of hybridizing American  elm with other elms are rare.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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2 n = 56. (FNA, 2006)
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Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Ulmus americana

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ulmus americana

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread, still common, but far less common than several decades ago due to depletion from an exotic fungus (Dutch elm disease).

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Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 30 to >90%

Comments: Declining rapidly due to Dutch elm disease, an exotic fungus transferred by bark beetles. Isolated trees less vulnerable than those in dense stands.

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Threats

Comments: Highly threatened by Dutch Elm Disease (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the terms: natural, tree

American elm has suffered greatly since the introduction of Dutch elm
disease from Europe around 1930. Since then the disease has spread over
much of the United States [46,48]. The disease is caused by the fungus
Ceratocystis ulmi. Spores of this fungus are carried by American
(Hylurgopinus rufipes) and European bark beetles (Scolytus multistria)
from diseased trees to healthy trees. The beetles breed only in dead,
dying, or recently cut elm wood and winter as larvae under the bark. In
the spring, adults emerge and fly a short distance (usually less than
500 feet [150 m]) to feed in the twig crothes or small branches in the
upper parts of the living trees. As the beetles feed, the spores are
introduced into the tree and the tree becomes diseased. After the
spores have been introduced into the tree's vascular system, the xylem
becomes plugged and a toxin is produced. The trees wilt on the small
branches and eventually on the whole limbs [16,39,47]. A program for
controlling Dutch elm disease has been described [47].

Most of the genetic research of elm has been concerned with the
resistance of various species, varieties, races, and hybrids to Dutch
elm disease or phloem necrosis. Natural hybridization in American elm
is uncommon, although controlled crosses have been made with Siberian
elm (Ulmus pumila). However, the success of these controlled crosses
has been quite poor [2,29]. American elm is a tetraploid, having 28
chromosomes, while most other elms have 14 chromosomes, making it
difficult to cross with other elms [35].
  • 16. Dunn, Christopher P. 1986. Shrub layer response to death of Ulmus americana in southeastern Wisconsin lowland forests. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 113(2): 142-148. [4793]
  • 2. Ager, Alan A.; Guries, Raymond P. 1982. Barriers to interspecific hybridization in Ulmus americana. Euphytica. 31: 909-920. [4966]
  • 29. Guilkey, Paul C. 1957. Silvical characteristics of...American elm (Ulmus americana). Station Paper No. 54. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Lake States Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [5509]
  • 35. Lester, D. T.; Lee, M. J. T. 1974. Twins and triplets of American elm. Forest Science. 20(2): 142. [4927]
  • 39. McBride, Joe. 1973. Natural replacement of disease-killed elms. The American Midland Naturalist. 90(2): 300-306. [8868]
  • 46. Streng, Donna R.; Glitzenstein, Jeff S.; Harcombe, P. A. 1989. Woody seedling dynamics in an east Texas floodplain forest. Ecological Monographs. 59(2): 177-204. [6894]
  • 47. Sturgeon, R. V., Jr.; Morrison, Lou S.; Conway, Kenneth E. 1978. Dutch elm disease control. OSU Extension Facts No. 7602. Stillwater, OK: Oklahoma State University, Cooperative Extension Service. 2 p. [4858]
  • 48. Swingle, Roger U. 1942. Phloem necrosis: A virus disease of the American elm. Circular No. 640. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 8 p. [4761]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun to light shade, moist to mesic areas, and fertile loamy soil. However, American Elm will adapt to drier areas and it can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including those that contain clay, silt, or sand. Temporary flooding is tolerated during the winter dormancy period, otherwise good drainage is required. Because of this tree's vulnerability to Dutch Elm Disease, Phloem Necrosis, and other problems, it tends to be short-lived and usually fails to reach its mature size. It can be propagated by leaf bud cuttings.
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Research Use

There are many studies that involve Ulmus americana, most likely due to its ubiquity and the fact that it it has been devestated by the fungal Dutch elm disease. For a review of the tree and the disease, see Hubbes 1999. It is often used in studies of stress response, for example Polanco et al. 2008 and Kozlowski and Pallardy 2002.


Hubbes M. 1999. The American elm and Dutch elm disease. The Forestry Chronicle. 75(2):265-273.

Kozlowski TT and SG Pallardy. 2002. Acclimation and adaptive responses of woody plants to environmental stresses. Botanical Review. 68(2): 270-334.

Polanco MC, JJ Zwiazek, and MC Voicu. 2008. Responses of ectomychorrhizal American elm (Ulmus americana) seedlings to salinity and soil compaction. Plant and Soil. 308(1-2):189-200.

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Cover Value

More info for the term: cover

American elm trees provide thermal cover and nesting sites for a variety
of primary and secondary cavity nesters [26,30].
  • 26. Gilmer, David S.; Ball, I. J.; Cowardin, Lewis M.; [and others]. 1978. Natural cavities used by wood ducks in north-central Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management. 42(2): 288-298. [13749]
  • 30. Hardin, Kimberly I.; Evans, Keith E. 1977. Cavity nesting bird habitat in the oak-hickory forests--a review. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-30. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 23 p. [13859]

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Wood Products Value

More info for the term: fuel

The wood of American elm is coarse-grained, heavy, and strong. It lacks
durability, warps, and splits badly in seasoning [44]. The wood is
used in the manufacture of boxes, baskets, crates, barrels, furniture,
agricultural implements, and caskets. Elm veneer is used for furniture
and decorative panels [9,51]. American elm is also used for fuel wood
[13].
  • 13. Dickinson Press. 1989. Plant life recovering on 5,400 acres burned in '88, Little Missouri Grasslands, Medora (ND) RD, Custer NF. No. 998. 1690 Northern Region Information Digest. [Prepared each week by the Information Office]. Page 2. [8460]
  • 44. Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. 1953. Forest tree planting. 2d ed. Bull. No. R 1. Toronto, Canada: Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, Division of Reforestation. 68 p. [12130]
  • 51. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 1974. Wood handbook: wood as an engineering material. Agric. Handb. No. 72. Washington, DC. 415 p. [16826]
  • 9. Collingwood, G. H. 1937. Knowing your trees. Washington, DC: The American Forestry Association. 213 p. [6316]

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Other uses and values

Before the advent of Dutch elm disease, American elm was prized as a
street ornamental in many cities in North America [55]. The inner bark
of American elm was used in various decoctions by the Native Americans
in the southeastern United States [17].
  • 17. Ebinger, John E.; McClain, William E. 1991. Naturalized amur maple (Acer ginnata Maxim.) in Illinois. Natural Areas Journal. 11(3): 170-171. [15249]
  • 55. Wheeler, E. A.; LaPasha, C. A.; Miller, R. B. 1989. Wood anatomy of elm (Ulmus) and hackberry (Celtis) species native to the United States. International Association of Wood Anatomy Bulletin. 10(1): 5-26. [11552]

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

American elm can be planted for erosion protection and as a windbreak
[21,38]. Its shallow and widespreading roots make it fairly windfirm
[8,56]. American elm can be propagated by cuttings, but the results
have been variable. Doran [14] reports that cuttings taken in June were
rooted with 94 percent success after treatment with indolebutyric acid
but rooted poorly with no treatment. The propagation of root cuttings
was ineffective for American elm in Ohio [6]. Leafbud cuttings are
superior to soft-wood cuttings for propagating American elm [23].
  • 14. Doran, William L. 1941. The propagation of some trees and shrubs by cuttings. Bulletin No. 382. Amherst, MA: Massachusetts State College, Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station. 56 p. [20255]
  • 21. Francis, John K. 1987. Regrowth after complete harvest of a young bottomland hardwood stand. In: Phillips, Douglas R., compiler. Proceedings, 4th biennial southern silvicultural research conference; 1986 November 4-6; Atlanta, GA. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-42. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 120-128. [4200]
  • 23. George, Ernest J. 1937. Storage and dewinging of American elm seed. Journal of Forestry. 35(8): 769-772. [3713]
  • 38. Manci, Karen M. 1989. Riparian ecosystem creation and restoration: a literature summary. Biol. Rep.89(20). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 60 p. [11757]
  • 56. Yeager, A. F. 1935. Root systems of certain trees and shrubs grown on prairie soils. Journal of Agricultural Research. 51(12): 1085-1092. [3748]
  • 6. Bretz, T. W. Swingle, Roger U. 1950. Propagation of disease-resistant elms. American Nurseryman. 92: 7-9, 65-66. [5779]
  • 8. Brundrett, Mark; Murase, Gracia; Kendrick, Bryce. 1990. Comparative anatomy of roots and mycorrhizae of common Ontario trees. Canadian Journal of Botany. 68: 551-578. [11380]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Although American elm is not considered a preferred browse, deer,
rabbits, and hares will occasionally browse the leaves and twigs
[24,49]. The seeds are eaten by a number of small birds. The
flowerbud, flower, and fruit are eaten by mice, squirrels, oppossum,
ruffed grouse, northern bobwhite, and Hungarian partridge [5].
  • 24. George, James F.; Powell, Jeff. 1977. Deer browsing and browse production of fertilized American elm sprouts. Journal of Range Management. 30(5): 357-360. [4971]
  • 49. Terres, J. Kenneth. 1939. Gray squirrel utilization of elm. Journal of Wildlife Management. 3(4): 358-359. [6440]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]

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Special Uses

Before the advent of Dutch elm disease, American elm was prized  for its use as a street tree. It was fast growing, hardy,  tolerant to stress, and appreciated for its characteristic  vaselike crown. Beautiful shaded streets in many cities attested  to its popularity.

    The wood of American elm is moderately heavy, hard, and stiff. It  has interlocked grain and is difficult to split, which is an  advantage for its use as hockey sticks and where bending is  needed. It is used principally for furniture, hardwood dimension,  flooring, construction and mining timbers, and sheet metal work.  Some elm wood goes into veneer for making boxes, crates, and  baskets, and a small quantity is used for pulp and paper  manufacture.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Calvin F. Bey

Source: Silvics of North America

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Uses

The tree can be harvested commercially for lumber products, naval store products, and pulpwood products. (USDA PLANTS, 2009) A valuable timber tree much planted for ornament though generally not the best to stand the fumes of some cities. Its branches meet across the road in a vaulted arch that permits the passage of high vehicles. (Peattie, 1930) It was used for years as an ornamental, and was once the most common shade tree in America. Recently it has been decimated by Dutch Elm Disease. (Hultman, 1978) Research is underway to produce disease-resistant cultivars for reintroduction in landscaping uses. (Weeks et al, 2005) This well-known, once abundant species, was familiar on lawns and city streets throughout America. The wood is used for containers, furniture, and paneling. Because of its fundamental architectural form, this is an ideal street tree. Because it is relatively odourless, the wood was used to make crates and barrels for cheeses, fruits and vegetables. (NPIN, 2008) Ulmus americana is the state tree for Massachusetts and for North Dakota. (FNA, 2006)

Various preparations of bark were used by pregnant women to insure stability of children, for menstrual cramps, for colds, for severe coughs, for dysentery, for "summer disease-vomiting, diarrhea and cramps," to facilitate childbirth and for parturition, for broken bones, for appendicitis, for sore eyes as an eye lotion, for gonorrhea, and for pulmonary hemorrhage. An infusion of root bark was taken for excessive menstruation. Wood was used in various capacities as a structural and vessel building material. (UM, 2009)

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© Beck, Nicholas

Source: Indiana Dunes Bioblitz

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Wikipedia

Florida Elm

The Florida Elm (U. americana var. floridana) is smaller than the type, and occurs naturally in north and central Florida south to Lake Okeechobee, growing to a maximum height of 22 m, with a slightly greater spread [1]

The tree is no less susceptible to Dutch elm disease, although the disease is less prevalent in Florida.

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Notes

Comments

Ulmus americana is reported as widely escaped in Idaho, which is not part of the natural range of this taxon. It is occasionally cultivated outside its native distribution, and it has escaped sporadically from cultivation. It is also reported as naturalized in Arizona, but I have seen no specimens. 

 Ulmus americana is the state tree for Massachusetts and for North Dakota.

The American elm is susceptible to numerous diseases, including Dutch elm disease. Ulmus americana has been a street and shade tree of choice because of its fast growth and pleasant shape and size. The species still exists in substantial numbers both as shade trees and in nature.

Numerous infraspecific taxa have been recognized in Ulmus americana (A. J. Rehder 1949; P. S. Green 1964).

Native American tribes frequently used parts of Ulmus americana for a variety of medicinal purposes, including treatment of coughs and colds, sore eyes, dysentary, diarrhea, broken bones, gonorrhea, and pulmonary hemorrhage, as a gynecological aid, as a bath for appendicitis, and as a wash for gunwounds (D. E. Moerman 1986).

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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

American elm
white elm
water elm
soft elm
Florida elm

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The currently accepted scientific name for American elm is Ulmus
americana L. [36]. Recognized varieties include U. americana var.
americana and U. americana var. floridana, which is restricted to the
coastal plains from eastern North Carolina to central Florida [15,27].
  • 15. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 27. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 36. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496]

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