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Thursday - April 10, 2008

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


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!


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


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