Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - April 10, 2008

From: Tomball, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Distinguishing elm species from volunteers in yard
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What's the best way to distinguish young elm tree species apart from one another? We have a bunch coming up in our yard and we're trying to figure out if they are Winged, Cedar or American. Some of them get the corky wings so we were thinking they were winged, but I saw on here that sometimes the Cedar Elms get those, too? And the Winged Elms don't -always- get them? Also - how would you make sure they aren't the invasive Chinese Elms? Thanks!

ANSWER:

If they are young and coming up in your yard, that is going to make identification more difficult. Some identifying characteristics may not show up until the tree is more mature. However, we'll take a stab at it. The first thing you need to do is examine the trees around you, both on your property and properties near you. If the trees are coming up volunteer, they are being seeded by trees in your area. They do not appear to put up shoots from the roots the way some oaks do. So, if you can find out what elms are growing in your area, you may be able to deduce that yours are the same. The problem there is that a great many of the characteristics do seem to be very similar: leaf arrangement-alternate, simple, serrate or doubly serrate oval leaves, leaves two to four inches long.

We found information in our Native Plant Database indicating that both the Ulmus alata (winged elm) and the Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm) have the corky little "wings" on some of its twigs and branches. We are going to list the four types of elms you asked about, including the non-native Chinese elm, and include a link with each to a page of images of that particular species. All of these elms are presently growing in the eastern half or third of Texas, and all are apparently in Montgomery and Harris Counties, where Tomball is. All the native elms have problems with Dutch Elm disease and powdery mildew. If you are going to grow elms, you are going to need to be prepared to watch for symptoms of those diseases; the Dutch Elm disease, in particular, is usually fatal.

Ulmus alata (winged elm) Images

Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm) Images Called a "cedar" elm because it is frequently found growing in an area with Ashe Juniper, called cedars in this part of the country.

Ulmus americana (American elm) Images

Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese Elm) Native to China, Japan and Korea Images

 

More Trees Questions

Thorny plant for fenceline security
December 23, 2009 - What kind of thorny plant or vine would you suggest to place along a fence for security purposes
view the full question and answer

Pruning a Wafer Ash to make it upright
February 11, 2005 - How do I trim a Wafer Ash? It lays on the ground. Is that normal? Does it need to be upright?
view the full question and answer

Problems with Live Oak tree in Jacksonville FL
February 21, 2011 - My live oak tree was planted 13 years ago as a mature young tree. Until last fall, it was full and healthy. Then leaves started turning brown and dropping. The company who cares for our lawn/shrubs ...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of newly planted magnolia in Irving TX
November 10, 2009 - I planted four Little Gem Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora) in my back yard during first week of October 2009. One of them seem to be dying because its leaves have turned very brown and the leaves are c...
view the full question and answer

Do leaves with tannins make good compost from Austin
November 04, 2010 - I have a couple of old native pecan trees in my (or neighbor's) yard that drop bushels and bushels of leaves every fall. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have a recollection that pecan leaves have...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.