Summary of Main Characteristics of Elms

By Will Watson

English Elm Ulmus procera Salisbury

Mature trees have a massive straight trunk persisting half way through the crown.
The bark is deeply cracked which in maturity form square plates
There are branches at all levels which twist and ascend at the top of a dense domed crown
Lower limbs become rapidly diffuse becoming short and slender
In sub-mature trees the majority of branches are ascending
Theleaves are 5-9cm in length:-
ovate to circular with a short pointed apex
they are harshly roughened above and rough on the underside,
when fully developed they are unusually curled or puckered
The leaves are nearly always attacked by the leaf-gall mite Eriophytes ulmicola
It suckers freely
Occasionally produces a mass of flowers clustered on small shoots which are purple caused by tufts of purple stamens
It rarely sets seed and fruit is usually sterile.

Wych Elm Ulmus glabra Hudson

A broad spreading tree, the trunk usually forks into a Y shape.
Sub-mature trees have smooth (hence ‘glabra’) silvery-grey bark which latter become fissured.
The leaves are greater than 7cm in length:-
they are typically very rough on the upperside
with more than 12 lateral veins covered in stiff white hairs,
it has a short hairy petiole 2-5mm long,
the leaves commonly have a three point apex; although this is not a diagnostic character.
It does not sucker freely, although it does coppice well (unlike English Elm U. procera).
Flowers are densely clustered close to shoots, dark purplish-red in early March
Wych Elm produces a mass of viable seed with relatively young trees reach fruiting maturity. Fruit is bright pale green with a broad obovate membrane which is slightly notched, they are prominent before the leaves form in late April and are contained in bunches

Small-leaved Elm Ulmus minor Miller (syn. Smooth-leaved Elm Ulmus carpinifolia G. Sucklow)

Typically a tall tree with a narrow domed crown.
Limbs in the upper crown are nearly all vertical, various size of branches ascend from the trunk
unlike English Elm U. procera arch over to end in long pendulous branchlets with a narrow system of fine curled shoots.
The bark has deep long, vertical fissures, young branches commonly have thick corky ridges.
It has much smaller leaves than its counterparts being less than 7cm in length:-
the leaf shape is extremely variable,
they are most typically elliptic
the upper surface of the leaf being smooth and shiny green
It is rarely attacked by the elm leaf-gall mite.
Where Small-leaved Elm U. minor is present it too is clonal i.e. produces suckers freely which are genetically identical to the parent plant.
Flowers are red with white stigmas
Fruit in elliptic membrane, cuneate (wedge shape) at base, seed near closed notch

Hybrids Elms and intermediate types

Huntingdon Elm Ulmus x vegeta var. Vegeta (syn. Ulmus x hollandica)

A hybrid between Small-leaved Elm U. minor and Wych Elm U. glabra
Tree with a regular tall domed crown with a straight clean bole.
Bark is dark brown, sometimes grey, with an even network of broad flat ridges.
It is non-suckering
Its leaves are elliptic, long-acuminate, 10-13 x 8cm, doubly toothed with a petiole between 1-2cm,
the upper surface is glossy, it has a very oblique base, one side is rounded curving to a first vein.
Flowers are large, prominent and bright red
Seed is obovate, notched, pale green, crimson in centre over seed.

Lineage Elm Ulmus x hollandica var.?

Specifically a woodland elm.
It has an intermediate leaf shape between Small-leaved Elm U. minor and Wych Elm U. glabra, unlike the more familiar hybrid Dutch Elm Ulmus x hollandica it is non-invasive and coppices well.

WBRC Home Worcs Record Listing by Issue Worcs Record Listing by Subject