Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Ulmus americana

American elm, White elm, Soft elm, Water elm, Common elm

Ulmaceae (Elm Family)

Ulmus americana (American elm)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Three distinct habits are recognized including the vase-shaped form in which the trunk divides into several erect limbs strongly arched above and terminating in numerous slender, pendulous branchlets. A more wide-spreading and less arching form occurs, as well as a narrow form with branchlets clothing the entire trunk. The species usually grows 60-80 ft. Dark-green leaves have variable fall color. Large, handsome, graceful tree, often with enlarged buttresses at base, usually forked into many spreading branches, drooping at ends, forming a very broad, rounded, flat-topped or vaselike crown, often wider than high.

This well-known, once abundant species, familiar on lawns and city streets, has been ravaged by the Dutch Elm disease, caused by a fungus introduced accidentally about 1930 and spread by European and native elm bark beetles. The wood is used for containers, furniture, and paneling. Because of its fundamental architectural form, this is the ideal street tree. Its branches meet across the road in a vaulted arch that permits the passage of high vehicles.(Peattie)

Image Gallery:

17 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Elliptic , Oval
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Double-serrate
Leaf Apex: Acuminate , Acute
Leaf Base: Oblique
Leaf Texture: Smooth
Fruit Type: Samara
Size Notes: Tree up to 100 feet tall, with a trunk diameter up to 10 feet; crown vase-shaped, widely spreading.
Leaf: Alternate, simple, oval to elliptic, pointed at the tip, strongly asymmetrical at the base, coarsely doubly toothed, smooth or somewhat rough to the touch on the upper surface, pale and smooth or soft-hairy on the lower surface, up to 6 inches long, up to 3 inches broad, with a short stalk.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower: In drooping clusters of 3-4, appearing before the leaves, small, hairy.
Fruit: Samaras ovate to oval, veiny, flat, smooth on the faces but densely ciliate along the edges, with a small perforation near the top.
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Green
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , MT , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , WY , DC
Canada: MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , QC , SK
Native Distribution: N.S., s. Man & s.e. Sask. & Crook Co. WY, s. to FL & c. TX
Native Habitat: Stream banks; lowland areas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, fertile soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Limestone-based
Conditions Comments: Prefers full sun and well drained soils. Good heat tolerance. Susceptible to Dutch elm disease.


Use Ornamental: Shade tree, Fast growing, Attractive, Fall conspicuous
Use Wildlife: Seeds-granivorous birds,Cover,Nesting site,Substrate-insectivorous birds,Seeds-Small mammals, Browse.
Use Other: Because it is relatively odourless, the wood was used to make crates and barrels for cheeses, fruits and vegetables.
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Mourning Cloak, Columbia silkmoth, Question Mark butterfly, Painted Lady butterfly, Comma buterfly.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Ulmus americana is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Eastern Comma
(Polygonia comma)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Mourning Cloak
(Nymphalis antiopa)

Larval Host
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Columbia silkmoth
(Hyalophora columbia)

Larval Host
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Question Mark
(Polygonia interrogationis)

Larval Host
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Painted Lady
(Vanessa cardui)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2015-10-13