(Ulmus spp.)

elm (Ulmus sp.)
Photo by Luciearl

Ulmus is a large genus of deciduous trees. It occurs throughout the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

There are 35 Ulmus species worldwide, 10 species in North America north of Mexico, and 4 species in Minnesota. Three of the species in Minnesota are native, one is naturalized. Three additional species occur in the state but are not naturalized. Ulmus parvifolia has been widely planted in hedgerows and groves in the Midwest. Ulmus glabra and Ulmus procera have been planted as ornamentals in parks and residential yards.


Elms are important components of hardwood forests. They have been widely planted as ornamental trees and shade trees on streets, in parks, and in gardens. They are easy to propagate by seed, are fast growing, and are moderately shade tolerant. They occur in both wet and well drained soils.

Dutch Elm disease has decimated elm populations in Europe and North America. Elm trees on streets and in fields have been killed by the disease. It is controlled in cities to a limited extent by the prompt removal of diseased trees. Of the species occurring in Minnesota, only Siberian elm is resistant to the disease.


The four elm species in Minnesota are all large or medium-sized trees.

The trunk is often forked below the crown. Side branches are produced in two rows. They are spreading and often arched. Twigs are slightly zigzagged. The pith is solid and round in cross section.

The leaves are deciduous, alternate, undivided, and unlobed. The blade is oval, thick, and tapered to a sharp point at the tip. The base on most species is asymmetric. The margins are doubly toothed. The veins are straight and prominent, and they end in a large tooth. Whether veins are forked, and how many are forked, are important features in determining the species.

The flowers are small and inconspicuous. They appear in groups of 3 or 4 before the leaf buds open.

The fruit is a winged, one-seeded, seed case (samara). The samara is flattened, papery, and oval or almost round. It matures and falls away in the spring before the leaves reach full size.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 22, 24, 28, 29, 30.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Rosales (roses, elms, figs, and allies)  


Ulmaceae (elm)  

Subordinate Taxa


Subgenus Indoptelea

Ulmus villosa (marn or cherry bark elm)

Subgenus Oreoptelea

Section Blepharocarpus

Ulmus americana (American elm, white elm)

Ulmus laevis (European white elm, fluttering elm, spreading elm, (US) Russian elm)

Section Chaetoptelea

Ulmus alata (winged elm, Wahoo)

Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm)

Ulmus elongata (long raceme elm)

Ulmus ismaelis

Ulmus mexicana (Mexican elm)

Ulmus serotina (September elm)

Ulmus thomasii (rock elm, cork elm)

Subgenus Ulmus

Section Foliaceae

Ulmus castaneifolia (chestnut-leafed elm, multi-nerved elm)

Ulmus changii (Hangzhou elm)

Ulmus chenmoui (Chenmou elm, Langya Mountain elm)

Ulmus chumlia

Ulmus davidiana (David Elm, Father David's elm)

Ulmus harbinensis (Harbin elm)

Ulmus microcarpa (Tibetan elm)

Ulmus minor (field elm)

Ulmus procera (field elm) ?

Ulmus prunifolia (cherry-leafed elm)

Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm)

Ulmus szechuanica (Szechuan elm)

Section Microptelea

Ulmus lanceifolia (Vietnam elm)

Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese elm, lacebark elm)

Section Trichocarpus

Ulmus glaucescens (Gansu elm)

Ulmus lamellosa (Hebei elm)

Ulmus macrocarpa (large-fruited elm)

Section Ulmus

Ulmus bergmanniana (Bergmann's elm)

Ulmus glabra (wych elm, Scots elm)

Ulmus laciniata (Manchurian elm, cut-leaf elm)

Ulmus rubra (slippery elm, red elm)

Ulmus uyematsui (Alishan elm)

Ulmus wallichiana (Himalayan elm, Kashmir elm)

Section Incertae sedis

Ulmus gaussenii (Anhui elm)

Ulmus pseudopropinqua (Harbin spring elm)







Common Names














The spongy cells in the center of the stem.



A dry fruit consisting of a seed attached to a papery wing; one seeded in Elms and Ashes, two-seeded in Maples.


Growth Form

Elms have a growth form that is most recognizable in the winter, when the tree is leafless.

... the lead shoot bends over and the next shoot in line takes over, until it too bends away and the one below that takes over.

The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter; Colin Tudge; 2006.


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    elm (Ulmus sp.)      
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Location: Fairview Twp.

elm (Ulmus sp.)

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Created: 1/8/2024

Last Updated:

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