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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Ulmus americana L.)

American elm

ELM FAMILY (Ulmaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A deciduous tree growing to 40 m. in height, with a characteristic vase-shaped growth form. The leaves are alternate, doubly serrate, elliptical to oblong-ovate, 8-14 cm. long, and nearly smooth to very rough above. Leaf veins are arranged in a characteristic herringbone pattern. Mature trees have dark gray bark with ridges separated by roughly diamond-shaped areas. The flowers develop in spring before the leaves unfold. Fruit is a water-like samara 1 cm. long that falls in May. In flower from March to May.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: American elm used to be one of the primary dominants of the floodplain forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin; however, these populations have been decimated by Dutch elm disease, which is caused by an introduced fungus transmitted by bark beetles. American elm is also found in hardwood swamps and rich upland woods. In the past, American elm was extensively used for landscaping, but Dutch elm disease has ravaged these populations also.

SOURCE: Brockman (1979); Gleason and Cronquist (1991); and Swink and Wilhelm (1994).

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