Leaves Bark Fruits
Fruits photo: Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Habitat: Moist deciduous woods, savannas,
woodland openings and borders. It also occurs
in wooded terraces and upland areas.
Range: Central and Eastern parts of North
America from Montana to Maine. Saskatchewan,
Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec to Florida.
Size and Form: Trees can be 60-100 feet
tall with trunks of 2-4 feet in diameter.
Trees have a distinctive arching canopy.
Leaves: Green, alternate, 7-20 cm long with
double-serrated margins. The base of the
leaf is oblique.
Flowers: Flowers have both male and female
organs (= perfect) and can self-pollinate. They
are small and purple-brown in color and emerge
before leaves in spring.
Fruits: A flat, 2 cm long samara (a winged
simple dry fruit that does not split open
along a seam) with a circular wing.
American elms were formerly the
predominant landscape tree in the
The Washington Elm in Massachusetts
is where George Washington took command
over the American Continental Army.
The Liberty Tree in Massachusetts was a
rallying point for American resistance
The species is tetraploid (having a double
compliment of chromosomes).
Dutch Elm Disease: This fungal disease was
introduced in the 1930's. It is responsible for
millions of American Elm deaths. The disease
kills branches followed by the entire tree.
The fungus grows in the water conducting parts
of the tree (xylem). This causes water movement
to stop and wilting of leaves. The fungus enters the
tree through small wounds caused by beetles
feeding on tree branches. Once inside the tree,
the fungus can move through the root system
of the diseased tree into the roots of nearby
Restoration Efforts: There are efforts underway
to restore the American Elm. Research to
develop elms tolerant of the fungus has utilized
American Elms that are naturally growing and
reproducing (~ 1/100,000 elms tolerate the
disease). There have been plantings of Dutch
Elm Disease resistant elms in Ohio and the
Upper Mississippi Watershed.
Carley, Bruce. (2012) Saving the American Elm. http://www.elmpost.org/
Schmidt, J. Frank & Warren, Keith. (2005) The Return of the Elm The Status of Elms in the Nursery Industry in 2000.
Townsend, A. M., Bentz, S. E., and Douglass L. W. (2005).
Evaluation of 19 American elm clones for tolerance to Dutch Elm Disease.
Journal of Environmental Horticulture, March 2005, Horticultural Research Institute, Washington, D.C.