En Español

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

Tree for area around patio in East Texas
December 31, 2008 - What is the best type of tree to plant around my patio which faces the southeast
view the full question and answer

Is it OK to remove soil around oaks - Austin, TX.
May 24, 2013 - I have several oaks trees (one live oak + burr oaks) from 15'-35' in height. They seem healthy. A local arborist says they were planted too deep and that the soil around them needs to be excavated t...
view the full question and answer

Existing live oak taking over in Monahans TX
March 22, 2011 - I have just purchased a home with a huge Live Oak tree in the front yard. The previous owners have over the years allowed the sucker roots to grow unchecked. The tree is shading most of the lawn (di...
view the full question and answer

Windbreaks for Monterey County, CA
May 31, 2013 - I am trying to find good wind breakers for Monterey County area, very windy in the valley.
view the full question and answer

Native flowering aromatic trees for Frisco, Texas
June 21, 2015 - Dear Smartplants, I live in Frisco, Texas. Could you please suggest me good native flowering aromatic trees from 12 to 50 feet. Thank you so much
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center