Elms are deciduous and semi-deciduous trees comprising the genus Ulmus, family Ulmaceae, found throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Siberia to Indonesia, Mexico to Japan. Many species and cultivars have also been introduced as ornamentals to parts of the Southern Hemisphere, notably Australasia.
Elms have alternate, simple, single- or doubly-serrate leaves, usually asymmetric at the base and acuminate at the apex. They are hermaphroditic, having perfect flowers which, being wind-pollinated, are without petals. The fruit is a round wind-dispersed samara.
Cultivation and uses
Elm wood was valued for its interlocking grain, and consequent resistance to splitting, with significant uses in wheels, chair seats and coffins. The wood is also resistant to decay when permanently wet, and hollowed trunks were widely used as water pipes during the medieval period in Europe. Elms also have a long history of cultivation for fodder, with the leafy branches cut for livestock. The bark, cut into strips and boiled, sustained much of the rural population of Norway during the great famine of 1812.
From the 18th century to the early 20th century, elms were among the most widely planted ornamental tree in both Europe and North America. They were particularly popular as a street tree in avenue plantings in towns and cities, creating high-tunnelled effects, and to this day, 'Elm Street' remains the most common road name in the USA. In North America the species most commonly planted was the American Elm U. americana, which had unique properties that made it ideal for such use: rapid growth, adaptation to a broad range of climates and soils, strong wood, resistance to wind damage, and vase-like growth habit requiring minimal pruning. In Europe, the Wych Elm U. glabra and the Smooth-leaved Elm U. minor var. minor were the most widely planted in the countryside, with the former in northern areas (Scandinavia, northern Britain), and the latter further south. The hybrid between these two, Dutch Elm U. × hollandica, occurs naturally and was also commonly planted. In England, it was the English Elm Ulmus procera that came to dominate the landscape; planted in hedgerows, it often occurred in densities of over 1000 per square kilometre. Such was its ubiquity, it almost always featured in the landscape paintings of John Constable. In Australia, large numbers of English Elms, as well as other species and cultivars, were planted as ornamentals following their introduction in the 19th century.
In parks and gardens, from about 1850 to 1920 the most prized small ornamental elm was the Camperdown Elm, Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii', a contorted weeping cultivar of the Wych Elm grafted on a standard elm trunk to give a wide, spreading and weeping fountain shape in large garden spaces.
"Mountain elms": spring flowering; flowers subsessile; leaves usually rough above.
Cut-leaf Elm - see Manchurian Elm
Gaussen Elm - see Anhui Elm
Hairy Elm - see Anhui Elm
Hairy Fruited Glaucescent Elm
Kashmir Elm - see Himalayan Elm
Langya Mountain Elm - see Chenmou Elm
Lobed Elm - see Manchurian Elm
Multinerved Elm - see Chestnut-leafed Elm
Red-fruit Elm - see Szechuan or Sichuan Elm
Szechuan or Sichuan Elm
Scots Elm - see Wych Elm
"Field elms": spring flowering; flowers subsessile; leaves usually smooth above.
Cherry Bark Elm
Atinian Elm - see English Elm
Goodyer's Elm - see Plot's Elm
Hoary Elm - see Grey Elm
Jersey Elm - see Guernsey Elm
Lock Elm - see Plot's Elm
Southampton Elm - see Guernsey Elm
Wahoo - see Winged Elm
Wheatley Elm - see Guernsey Elm
Wilson's Elm - see Japanese Elm
"White elms": spring flowering; flowers pedunculate
Cork Elm - see Rock Elm
European White Elm
Fluttering Elm - see European White Elm
Red Elm - see Slippery Elm
Russian Elm - see European White Elm
Spreading Elm - see European White Elm
Water Elm - see American Elm
White Elm - see American Elm
Lacebark Elm - see Chinese Elm
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