Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Identification of spiky red berry in Connecticut
September 25, 2011 - I found an odd berry outside of my school, none of the science teachers know what it is though. It kind of looks like a spiked cherry. It has spikes on the outside, a pit on the insde, and has pinkish...
view the full question and answer

Premature leaf drop on Red Maple in Kentucky
June 25, 2008 - I have a ten foot Red Maple tree that has been set out for 4 years. Its leaves have slowly turned colors until it currently looks like fall. The leaves are not falling off nor is there yet any s...
view the full question and answer

Black walnut herbivory
June 13, 2005 - We moved to Texas just about a year ago and have loved it here. This past January we visited the Wildflower Center and obtained some black walnut seeds. Up until last night the tree was doing well p...
view the full question and answer

Do Maple trees and Poplars grow well in Amarillo,TX?
May 25, 2010 - Do maple trees and poplars grow well in Amarillo Texas? I love the fall reds, oranges, and yellows. If they don't grow well can you recommend some trees that have the color that will grow well?
view the full question and answer

Sprouts from stems of plants from Happy Yard IN
September 28, 2013 - Is it normal for a plant to start a sprout from its own root system next to the stock/stem? Is it trying to regrow?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.