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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > American Elm

American Elm

(Ulmus americana L.)

  This famous shade tree of New England, which is seriously threatened by the Imported Dutch Elm disease, is found throughout North Carolina. It is most common on bottomlands and other fertile, moist soils.

American elm leaves are oval, and have a long, slightly curved point. Leaves are rough-textured and 4 to 6 inches long. They are rounded at the base on one side of the midrib but are shorter and almost straight on the other side. Leaf margins are sharply toothed.

The twigs are brown and usually smooth, and the buds are also brown. The fruit is clustered on long stems. The small seed is encased in a flattened, papery, wing-like covering that is oblong and deeply notched at its peak.

The bark is dark gray and divided into irregular, flat-topped, thick ridges. It is generally firm, but on old trees tends to come off in flakes. An incision into the inner bark will show alternate layers brown and white.

In dense forest stands, the tree will have a fairly narrow crown and a long, clear bole. Open-grown trees usually fork near the ground and develop arching crowns. The characteristic "urn" shape of the elms makes it easy to identify them even from a distance.

American elm reaches an average height of 75 to 100 feet and a diameter of 2 to 5 feet. Old trees sometimes are enlarged at the base by large buttresses. The wood is heavy, hard, strong, tough and difficult to split.
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