23 American Elm Tree Facts: Species, Height, Care And Much More!

Devangana Rathore
Jan 11, 2023 By Devangana Rathore
Originally Published on Jan 11, 2022
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Learn all about American Elm tree and how to save them.
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Read time: 5.5 Min

There is an American elm tree in New York that is believed to be around 650 years old, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

Many famous Americans have either grown or been associated with American elms. Abraham Lincoln, Henry David Thoreau,  George Washington, Daniel Boone, and William Penn are among the names on the list.

George Washington was a fan of the species and had many of them planted at Mount Vernon, some of which are said to be still alive today. Two famous elm trees can be found in Massachusetts.

The Washington elm is said to be the location where George Washington took command of the American Continental Army, while the Liberty Tree is said to be the site of American resistance to England.

Kitchen furniture, flooring, baskets, and woodenware are all made from American elmwood. Because steamed American elmwood bends easily, it is also used to make barrels and baskets. Because of its spiral grain, elmwood burns slowly and is difficult to split. It emits a foul odor when burned over an open fire.

Kinds Of American Elm Tree

Ulmus americana is a variety of elm native to eastern North America. It is also called the American elm, water elm, or white elm. At maturity, the American elm is a small-medium-sized tree with extending branches that create a broad, fan-shaped crown.

  • The upper surface is dark green, glossy, and smooth, primarily slightly rough. Elm trees come in various shapes and sizes, including American elm, cherry bark elm, Camperdown elm, European white elm tree, slippery elm tree, and so on.
  • The trunk of the American elm is divided into multiple upright branches, giving it a vase-like look. It has oval to elliptical leaves 4-6 in (10-15.2 cm) long and 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) broad.
  • The majority of birch trees reach a height of 40-50 ft (12-15.2 m) and own heart-shaped leaves, which turn yellow in the fall.
  • River birch and paper birch are popular landscaping trees because they grow in beautiful bunches.
  • The bark of adult American elm trees is greyish brown, having diamond-shaped grooves. Till it was chopped down off January 19, 2010, Herbie, an American elm, was the largest American elm of New England.

Environment Requirements For The American Elm Tree

The American elm is a tall tree with a deep root system that reaches well beyond the drip line. It is appealing both for its appearance and its capacity to thrive in various environments, free of the illnesses that afflict many other elms.

  • It may thrive on acidic or alkaline soil. Because it is prone to fungal infections, the area should get full sunshine to partial shade as well as sufficient airflow.
  • The American elm tree is a huge shade tree formerly often seen along city streets and in residential settings.
  • Until the fungal Dutch elm disease was transmitted in the '30s via elm bark beetles, American elms were the most common landscape plant species in the northeast US, destroying millions of trees and shortening the species' average lifetime.
  • However, the study resulted in introducing an American elm that is more resistant to the fungus as part of continuing restoration efforts.
  • The American elm is a long-lived tree that may survive for 175-200 years, with some trees living for over 300 years. Unfortunately, as per Denver's tree inventory, just 3,810 American elms are surviving today.
  • If one tree were selected to depict the 'classic' tree shape visually, the American elm tree would be that tree.
American Elm trees are suffering from the Dutch Elm disease.

Diseases And Disorders Affecting The American Elm Tree

The fungus that produces Dutch elm disease was initially discovered in the Netherlands in 1921, according to the American Phytopathological Society, which researches plant disease. As new trees develop, they succumb to the illness and perish before reaching their full potential.

Even now, there are a lot of diseases affecting the American Elm Tree, some of which have been discussed below.

  • The infection causes the leaves to yellow and wilt, killing the branches and eventually the entire tree. Trees that are especially sensitive to the illness may succumb to the disease in a year.
  • Beetles become coated in sticky spores as they feed on the weakened recently dead trees or bark of dying. The beetles then act as a vector for the disease to spread to neighboring elm trees.
  • In North America, the illness is carried by two insect species: the native elm bark beetle and the European elm bark beetle.
  • Dutch elm disease is caused by an Asian fungus transported from tree to tree by European and North American elm bark beetles. The Morton Arboretum has a list of 18 Dutch elm disease-resistant American elm varieties.
  • This tree, native to North America, thrives in USDA plant tolerance zones three to nine. The American elm was the dominant shade tree in many parts of North America.
  • According to Iowa State Extension, the American elm tree is 'perhaps the ideal street tree'. American pioneers utilized elm-wood wagon wheels. Kitchenette furniture, baskets, floors, and woodenware are all American elm-wood.
  • Elm, sycamore, eucalyptus, and liquid amber may provide an unpleasant flavor to meals and should be avoided.

Farming Of The American Elm Tree

Outside their natural range, American elms have been grown as far north as central Alberta. Elms are grand and graceful trees with appealing, fountain-like limbs. Elm trees are prized for their aesthetic value and for providing shade. In addition, elm trees grown on a landform are landmarks that may be seen from a long distance.

  • Choose a spot that gets nearly six hours of direct sunshine each day. Elm trees cannot thrive in soggy soil and can not accept 'wet feet'. For a comprehensive and deep-rooted variety like elm, adding organic matter to the ground is not a choice since soil amendments could only go so far. When planted, the American Elm overgrows between 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) per year in new growth.
  • As your freshly planted elm tree grows, it will require frequent watering. Allowing the soil surrounding the root ball to dry up is not a good idea.
  • Affected trees usually die as a result of this deadly illness. 'Liberty American', 'New Harmony', and 'Valley Forge' are DED-resistant varieties.
  • How to prevent Dutch elm disease from spreading? If many elms are being planted at the same time, keep them at least 60-70 ft (18.2-21.3 m) apart to avoid Dutch elm disease from spreading. Elms, as well as other trees, can be planted in the landscape to help prevent the illness to spread.
  • George Washington was a big fan of the plant and had many American elms at Mount Vernon. The Washington elm represents the location where George Washington received charge of the American Continental Army. In contrast, the Liberty Tree symbolizes the area of American opposition to England.

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Written by Devangana Rathore

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

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Devangana RathoreBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana is a highly accomplished content writer and a deep thinker with a Master's degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. With a wealth of experience in copywriting, she has worked with The Career Coach in Dublin and is constantly looking to enhance her skills through online courses from some of the world's leading universities. Devangana has a strong background in computer science and is also an accomplished editor and social media manager. Her leadership skills were honed during her time as the literacy society president and student president at the University of Delhi.

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

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Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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