|Ulmus americana (American elm) at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania|
Ulmus americana, generally known as the American elm or, less commonly, as the white elm or water elm, is a species native to eastern North America, occurring from Nova Scotia west to Alberta and Montana, and south to Florida and central Texas. The American elm is an extremely hardy tree that can withstand winter temperatures as low as −42 °C (−44 °F). Trees in areas unaffected by Dutch elm disease can live for several hundred years. A prime example of the species was the Sauble Elm, which grew beside the banks of the Sauble River in Ontario, Canada, to a height of 43 m (140 ft), with a d.b.h of 196 cm (6.43 ft) before succumbing to Dutch elm disease; when it was felled in 1968, a tree-ring count established that it had germinated in 1701.
The American elm is a deciduous tree, which, before the advent of Dutch elm disease, commonly grew to > 30 m (100 ft) tall with a trunk > 1.2 m (4 ft) d.b.h. The crown forms a high, spreading canopy with open air space beneath. The leaves are alternate, 7–20 cm long, with double-serrate margins and an oblique base. The tree is hermaphroditic, having perfect flowers, (i.e. with both male and female parts) and is therefore capable of self-pollination. The flowers are small, purple-brown, and, being wind-pollinated, are apetalous; they emerge in early spring before the leaves. The fruit is a flat samara 2 cm long and 1.5 cm broad, with a circular wing surrounding the single 4–5 mm seed. As in the closely related European white elm (Ulmus laevis), the flowers and seeds are borne on 1–3 cm long stems. American Elm is wholly insensitive to daylight length (photoperiod), and will continue to grow well into autumn until injured by frost.
The American elm occurs naturally in an assortment of habitats, most notably rich bottomlands, floodplains, stream banks, and swampy ground, although it also often thrives on hillsides, uplands and other well-drained soils. On more elevated terrain, as in the Appalachian Mountains, it is most often found along rivers. The species' wind-dispersed seeds enable it to spread rapidly as suitable areas of habitat become available.
In the United States, the American elm is a major member of four major forest cover types: black ash-American elm-red maple; silver maple-American elm; sugarberry-American elm-green ash; and sycamore-sweetgum-American elm, with the first two of these types also occurring in Canada. A sugar maple-ironwood-American elm cover type occurs on some hilltops near Témiscaming, Quebec.
Pests and diseases
The American elm is highly susceptible to Dutch elm disease (DED) and elm yellows; it is also moderately preferred for feeding and reproduction by the adult elm leaf beetle Xanthogaleruca luteola , and highly preferred for feeding by the Japanese beetle Popillia japonica   in the USA. Trees grown in Europe have proven very susceptible to damage by leaf-feeding insects in general, far more so than native or Asiatic elms.
U. americana is also the most susceptible of all the elms to verticillium wilt, whose external symptoms closely mimic those of DED. However, the condition is far less serious, and the tree should recover the following year.
Dutch elm disease
Dutch elm disease (DED) is a fungal disease which has ravaged the American elm, causing catastrophic die-offs in cities across the range. It has been estimated that only approximately 1 in 100,000 American elm trees is DED-tolerant, most known survivors simply having escaped exposure to the disease. However, in some areas still not populated by the Dutch elm disease-carrying elm bark beetle, the American elm continues to thrive, notably in Florida, most of Alberta and British Columbia.
The American elm is particularly susceptible to disease because the period of infection often coincides with the period, approximately 30 days, of rapid terminal growth when new springwood vessels are fully functional. Spores introduced outside of this period remain largely static within the xylem and are thus relatively ineffective.
A fair number of mostly small to medium-sized American elms survive nowadays in woodlands, suburban areas, and occasionally cities, where most often the survivors had been relatively isolated from other elms and thus spared a severe exposure to the fungus. For example, in Central Park and Tompkins Square Park in New York City, stands of several large elms originally planted by Frederick Law Olmsted survive because of their isolation from neighboring areas in New York where there had been heavy mortality. The Olmstead designed park system in Buffalo, NY  did not fare as well. In Akron, Ohio there is a very old elm tree that has not been infected. In historical areas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there are also a few mature American elms still standing — notably in Independence Square and the Quadrangle at the University of Pennsylvania, and also at the nearby campuses of Haverford College, Swarthmore College, and The Pennsylvania State University, believed to be the largest remaining stand in the country. There are several large American Elm trees in western Massachusetts. The large Massachusetts Champion Elm stands on Summer Street in the Berkshire County town of Lanesborough, Massachusetts has been kept alive by antifungal treatments. Rutgers University has preserved 55 mature elms on and in the vicinity of Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue Campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey in addition to seven disease-resistant trees that have been planted in this area of the campus in recent years.
The largest surviving urban forest of American elms in North America is believed to be in the city of Winnipeg, Canada, where close to 200,000 elms remain. The city of Winnipeg spends $3M annually to aggressively combat the disease utilizing Dursban Turf and the Dutch Trig vaccine, losing 1500-4000 trees per year.
The American elm's biology in some ways has helped to spare it from obliteration by the Dutch elm disease, in contrast to what happened to the American chestnut with the chestnut blight. The elm's seeds are largely wind-dispersed, and the tree grows quickly and begins bearing seeds at a young age. It grows well along roads or railroad tracks, and in abandoned lots and other disturbed areas, where it is highly tolerant of most stress factors. Elms have been able to survive and to reproduce in areas where the disease had eliminated old trees, although most of these young elms eventually succumb to the disease at a relatively young age. There is some reason to hope that these elms will preserve the genetic diversity of the original population, and that they eventually will hybridize with DED-resistant varieties that are being developed or that occur naturally.
Two species of elm bark beetle, one of them native, are known to carry the disease in North America. Although the European elm bark beetle is known to have occurred across southern and central Alberta, it does not appear to be carrying the disease in these areas.
Some cities such as Kansas City, Missouri, had used mostly American elms in planting its city streets and had had some of the finest shaded residential streets in the nation, until the disease almost obliterated these plantings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many cities in the United States still have some surviving American elms, but generally this species requires frequent attention to check for elm bark beetles and DED infection. (The National Park Service often checks on the hundreds of elm trees under its care on the National Mall and in other locations in the Washington, D.C., area for signs of illness.)
Fungicidal injections can be administered by a qualified arborist to valuable American elms, to prevent the trees' becoming infected. Such injections generally are effective as a preventive measure for up to three years when performed before any symptoms have appeared, but they may be ineffective as a treatment once the disease is able to be seen.
In years past, the American elm was used widely as a shade tree and as a street tree, because of its graceful, arching, vase-like growth form, and its tolerance of most stress factors These trees' rapid growth and longevity, leading to great size within decades, also favor its horticultural use. Furthermore, the cross-grained wood imbues the branches with great strength, with limb breakages rare. Ohio botanist William B. Werthner, discussing the contrast between open-grown and forest-grown American elms, noted that:
In the open, with an abundance of air and light, the main trunk divides into several leading branches which leave the trunk at a sharp angle and continue to grow upward, gradually diverging, dividing and subdividing into long, flexible branchlets whose ends, at last, float lightly in the air, giving the tree a round, somewhat flattened top of beautifully regular proportions and characteristically fine twiggery.
It is this distinctive growth form that is so valued in the open-grown American elms of street plantings, lawns, and parks; along most narrower streets, elms planted on opposite sides arch and blend together into a leafy canopy over the pavement.
Introductions across the Atlantic rarely prospered, even before the outbreak of Dutch elm disease. Introduced to the UK in 1752, it was noted that the foliage of the American elm was far more susceptible to insect damage than native elms. A few, mostly young, specimens survive in British arboreta. Introduced to Australasia, the tree was listed by nurseries in Australia in the early 20th century, and is known to have been planted along the Avenue of Honour at Ballarat and the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour. It is only rarely found in New Zealand.
- See the list of Elm cultivars, hybrids and hybrid cultivars for more details.
Numerous cultivars have been raised, originally for their aesthetic merit but more recently for their resistance to Dutch elm disease The total number of named cultivars is circa 45, at least 18 of which have probably been lost to cultivation as a consequence of Dutch elm disease or other factors:
- American Liberty, Ascendens, Augustine, Aurea, Beaverlodge, Beebe's Weeping, Brandon, Burgoyne, College, Columnaris, Deadfree, Delaware, Exhibition, Fiorei, Flick's Spreader, Folia Aurea Variegata, Hines, Incisa, Independence, Iowa State, Jackson, Jefferson, Kimley, Klehmii, Lake City, L'Assomption, Lewis & Clark (Prairie Expedition), Littleford, Maine, Markham, Minneapolis Park, Moline, Morden, New Harmony, Nigricans, Patmore, Pendula, Penn Treaty, Princeton, Pyramidata, Queen City, Sheyenne, Skinner Upright, Star, Valley Forge, Variegata, Vase, Washington
The National Elm Trial, begun in 2005, is currently evaluating 19 hybrid and species cultivars in scientific plantings across the United States to better assess their strengths and weaknesses.
The few disease-resistant selections made available to the public as yet include 'Valley Forge', 'New Harmony', 'Princeton', 'Jefferson', and a set of six different clones collectively known as 'American Liberty'. The United States National Arboretum released 'Valley Forge' and 'New Harmony' in late 1995, after screening tests performed in 1992–1993 showed both had unusually high levels of resistance to DED. 'Valley Forge' performed especially well in these tests. 'Princeton' has been in occasional cultivation since the 1920s, and gained renewed attention after its performance in the same screening tests showed it also to have a high degree of DED resistance. A later test performed in 2002–2003 confirmed the DED resistance of these same three varieties, and that of 'Jefferson'. 'Jefferson' was released to wholesale nurseries in 2004 and is becoming increasingly available for planting. Thus far, plantings of these four varieties generally appear to be successful.
In 2005, 90 'Princeton' elms were planted along Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House and to date are healthy and thriving. Introduced to the UK in 2001, 'Princeton' was selected by HRH The Prince of Wales to form the Anniversary Avenue from the Orchard Room reception centre to the Golden Bird statue at Highgrove House. However, the cultivar has not proven resistant to the European strain of DED, and the Highgrove trees were felled and burned in 2012. In 2007, the Elm Recovery Project from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, reported that cuttings from healthy surviving old elms surveyed across Ontario had been grown to produce a bank of resistant trees, isolated for selective breeding of highly resistant cultivars.
Hybrids and hybrid cultivars
- Ulmus 'Rebella' (U. americana × U. parvifolia)
Thousands of attempts to cross the American elm with the Siberian elm U. pumila failed . Attempts at the Arnold Arboretum using ten other American, European and Asiatic species also ended in failure, attributed to the differences in ploidy levels, and operational dichogamy, although the ploidy factor has been discounted by other authorities.
Success was finally achieved with the autumn-flowering Chinese elm Ulmus parvifolia by the late Prof. Eugene Smalley towards the end of his career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after he overcame the problem of keeping Chinese elm pollen alive until spring. Only one of the hybrid clones was commercially released, as 'Rebella' in 2011 by the German nursery Eisele GmbH; the clone is not available in the USA.
Other artificial hybridizations with American elm are rare, and now regarded with suspicion. Two such alleged successes by the nursery trade were 'Hamburg', and 'Kansas Hybrid', both with Siberian elm Ulmus pumila. However, given the repeated failure with the two species by research institutions, it is now believed that the "American elm" in question was more likely to have been the red elm, Ulmus rubra.
- North America
- Arnold Arboretum, acc. nos. 250-53 (cult. material), 412-86 wild collected in the USA.
- Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Clermont, Kentucky. No details available.
- Denver Botanic Gardens, one specimen, no details.
- Latina Nursery, Searcy, AR, two specimens, no details.
- Holden Arboretum, acc. nos. 2005-17, 65-632, 80-663, all of unrecorded provenance.
- Longwood Gardens, acc. nos. 1997-0074, L-0352, sources unrecorded.
- Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri. acc. nos. 1969-6172, 1986-0206, 1986-0207, 1986-0208.
- New York Botanical Garden, acc. nos. 877/97, 944/96, 1854/99, 2111/99, 06791, all unrecorded provenance.
- Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, acc. nos. 00/1265, 99/0660.
- Scott Arboretum, acc. no. S000339, no other details available.
- U S National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., USA. Acc. nos. 64254, 64255, 64256, 66355, 66426, 68988, 69304, 66341.
- Brighton & Hove City Council, UK. NCCPG elm collection.
- Dubrava Arboretum, Lithuania. No accession details available.
- Hortus Botanicus Nationalis, Salaspils, Latvia. Acc. nos. 18087,88,89,90,91,92.
- Wakehurst Place Garden, Wakehurst Place, UK. Acc. nos. 1994-67, 1994-68, 1991-1163.
- Linnaean Gardens of Uppsala, Sweden. Acc. nos. 1976-2713,0000-2170
- Strona Arboretum, University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland. No accession details available.
- Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK. Acc. no. 19901741, wild collected in Canada
- Tallinn Botanic Garden, Estonia. No accession details available.
- Thenford House arboretum, Northamptonshire, UK. No accession details available.
- University of Copenhagen, Botanic Garden. Acc. no. P1971-5201, wild collected in the USA.
- Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Gisborne, New Zealand. 11 trees, accession details not known.
- Trentham, Victoria. A line of trees on the Greendale Trentham Forest Road.
|This section requires expansion. (October 2011)|
The American elm's wood is coarse, hard, and tough, with interlacing, contorted fibers that make it difficult to split or chop, and cause it to warp after sawing. Accordingly, the wood originally had few uses, but was found to be excellent for making hubs for wagon wheels. Later, with the advent of mechanical sawing, American elm wood was used for barrel staves, trunk-slats, and hoop-poles, and subsequently became fundamental to the manufacture of wooden automobile bodies, with the intricate fibers holding screws unusually well.
Pioneer and traditional uses
Notable American elms
The American elm (Ulmus americana) can grow to great size, and in open settings spread its branches widely. Since elm wood had few uses before the 20th century, many elms were left standing, and continued to grow, as forestland in its range was cleared for farming or settlement.
Historical or traditional associations involving already-large elms often led to their continued preservation, allowing such trees to reach immense sizes. However, the generally open rather than forested settings of these big trees leaves them particularly vulnerable to lightning and windstorm damage. Also, in recent decades, Dutch elm disease has weakened or killed many if not most of these huge, old elm trees.
The following are among the best-known of these huge historical American elms; for more examples, see the longer list in the article on the elm genus (Ulmus).
The Treaty Elm (Pennsylvania)
The Treaty Elm, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In what is now Penn Treaty Park, the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, is said to have entered into a treaty of peace in 1683 with the native Lenape Turtle Clan under a picturesque elm tree immortalized in a painting by Benjamin West. West made the tree, already a local landmark, famous by incorporating it into his painting after hearing legends (of unknown veracity) about the tree being the location of the treaty. No documentary evidence exists of any treaty Penn signed beneath a particular tree. On March 6, 1810 a great storm blew the tree down. Measurements taken at the time showed it to have a circumference of 24 feet (7.3 m), and its age was estimated to be 280 years. Wood from the tree was made into furniture, canes, walking sticks and various trinkets that Philadelphians kept as relics.
The Washington Elm (Massachusetts)
The Washington Elm, Cambridge, Massachusetts. George Washington is said to have taken command of the American Continental Army under the Washington Elm in Cambridge on July 3, 1775. The tree survived until the 1920s and "was thought to be a survivor of the primeval forest". In 1872, a large branch fell from it and was used to construct a pulpit for a nearby church. The tree, an American white elm, became a celebrated attraction, with its own plaque, a fence constructed around it and a road moved in order to help preserve it. The tree was cut down (or fell — sources differ) in October 1920 after an expert determined it was dead. The city of Cambridge had plans for it to be "carefully cut up and a piece sent to each state of the country and to the District of Columbia and Alaska," according to The Harvard Crimson. As late as the early 1930s, garden shops advertised that they had cuttings of the tree for sale, although the accuracy of the claims has been doubted. A Harvard "professor of plant anatomy" examined the tree rings days after the tree was felled and pronounced it between 204 and 210 years old, making it at most 62 years old when Washington took command of the troops at Cambridge. The tree would have been a little more than two feet in diameter (at 30 inches above ground) in 1773. In 1896, an alumnus of the University of Washington, obtained a rooted cutting of the Cambridge tree and sent it to Professor Edmund Meany at the university. The cutting was planted, cuttings were then taken from it, including one planted on February 18, 1932, the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, for whom Washington state is named. That tree remains on the campus of the Washington State Capitol. Just to the west of the tree is a small elm from a cutting made in 1979.
The Liberty Tree (Massachusetts)
- The Liberty Tree, an elm on Boston Common in Boston, Massachusetts, was a rallying point for the growing resistance to the rule of England over the American colonies.
George Washington's Elm (District of Columbia)
- George Washington's Elm, Washington, D.C. George Washington supposedly had a favorite spot under an elm tree near the United States Capitol Building from which he would watch construction of the building. The elm stood near the Senate wing of the Capitol building until 1948.
The Logan Elm (Ohio)
The Logan Elm that stood near Circleville, Ohio, was one of the largest American elms anywhere. The 65-foot-tall (20 m) tree had a trunk circumference of 24 feet (7.3 m) and a crown spread of 180 feet (55 m). Weakened by Dutch elm disease, the tree died in 1964 from storm damage. The Logan Elm State Memorial commemorates the site and preserves various associated markers and monuments.
According to tradition, Chief Logan of the Mingo tribe delivered a passionate speech at a peace-treaty meeting under this elm in 1774, said to be the most famous speech ever given by a Native American.
Another notable American elm, named Herbie, was the tallest American elm in New England until it was cut down on January 19, 2010, after Dutch elm disease became fatal. Herbie was 110 feet (34 m) tall at its peak and had a circumference of 20.3 feet (6.2 m), or a diameter of approximately 6.5 feet (2.0 m). The tree stood in Yarmouth, Maine, where it was cared for by the town's tree warden, Frank Knight.
When cut down, Herbie was 217 years old. Herbie's wood is of interest to dendroclimatologists, who will use cross-sections of the trunk to help answer questions about climate during the tree's lifetime.
The Survivor Tree
An American elm, located in a parking lot directly across the street from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, survived a terrorist bombing on April 19, 1995 that killed 168 people and destroyed the building. Damaged in the blast, with fragments lodged in its trunk and branches, it was nearly cut down in efforts to recover evidence. However, nearly a year later the tree began to bloom. It is now an important part of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and the Survivor Tree is featured prominently on the official logo of the memorial.
Ulmus americana in photography
The nobility and arching grace of the American elm in its heyday, on farms, in villages, in towns and on campuses, were celebrated in the books of photographs of Wallace Nutting (Massachusetts Beautiful, N.Y. 1923, and other volumes in the series) and of Samuel Chamberlain (The New England Image, New York, 1962).
- "Ulmus americana". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- The name "water elm" is also used for Planera aquatica, another species in the Ulmaceae.
- Downs, R. J. & Borthwick, H. A. (1956). Effects of photoperiod on growth of trees. Botanical Gazette, 117, 310-326
- Whittemore, A. T. and Olsen, R. T. (2011). Ulmus americana (Ulmaceae) is a polyploid complex. American Journal of Botany 98(4): 754–760. 2011.
- Hans, A. S. (1981). Compatibility and Crossability Studies in Ulmus. Silvae Genetica 30, 4 - 5 (1981).
- Werthner, William B. (1935). Some American Trees: An intimate study of native Ohio trees. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. xviii + 398.
- Strausbaugh, P.D., and E.L. Core (). Flora of West Virginia (Second Edition). Morgantown,West Virginia: Seneca Books, Inc. pp. xl + 1079.
- Brown, Jean-Louis. (1981). Les forêts du Témiscamingue, Québec: écologie et photo-interprétation. Laboratoire d'écologie forestière, Université Laval, Québec.
- Miller, F. and Ware, G. (2001). Resistance of Temperate Chinese Elms (Ulmuss spp.) to Feeding of the Adult Elm Leaf Beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 94 (1): 162-166. 2001. Entom. Soc.of America.
- Miller, F., Ware, G. and Jackson, J. (2001). Preference of Temperate Chinese Elms (Ulmuss spp.) for the Feeding of the Japanese Beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 94 (2). pp 445-448. 2001. Entom. Soc.of America.
- Elwes, H. J. & Henry, A. (1913). The Trees of Great Britain & Ireland. Vol. VII. pp 1848-1929. Private publication. 
- Pegg, G. F. & Brady, B. L. (2002). Verticillium Wilts. CABI Publishing. ISBN 0-85199-529-2
- Smalley, E. G. (1963). Seasonal fluctuations in susceptibility of young elm seedlings to Dutch elm disease. Phytopathology, 53, 846-853.
- Barnard, E. S. (2002). New York City Trees. Columbia University Press.
- The Language of Trees
- Voorhees Mall Elms Add to Commencement's Ambience
- City of Winnipeg Elm Bark Beetle Control Program
- "Dutch Elm Vaccine Tested In Winnipeg"
- Stennes, Mark (2003). "Good news for the American Elm". Shade Tree Advocate 5 (4): 6. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
- Auckland Botanical Society (2003). Journal Vol. 58 (1), June 2003. ISSN 0113-41332
- Townsend, A. M., Bentz, S. E., and Douglass L. W. (2005). Evaluation of 19 American Elm Clones for Tolerance to Dutch Elm Disease. Journal of Environmental Horticulture, March 2005, Horticultural Research Institute, Washington, D.C.
- Costello, L. R. (2004). A 10 -year evaluation of the performance of four elm cultivars in California, U. S. Journal of Arboriculture, March 2004. 
- Ager, A. A. & Guries, R. P. (1981). Barriers to interspecific hybridization in Ulmus americana. Euphytica 31 (1982) 909 - 920.
- Heybroek, H. M., Goudzwaard, L, Kaljee, H. (2009). Iep of olm, karakterboom van de Lage Landen (:Elm, a tree with character of the Low Countries). KNNV, Uitgeverij. ISBN 9709050112819
-  Platt, Rutherford, "1001 Questions Answered About Trees", 1992, Courier Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-27038-6, accessed October 20, 2007
-  Web page titled "Arthur Lee Jacobson: Trees of the Washington State Capitol Campus" at the Web site of Arthur Lee Jacobson (author of Trees of Seattle), text was part of a brochure, "originally published in 1993 as a 14-page brochure produced by the Washington State House of Representatives", according to the Web page, accessed October 20, 2007
- "Big Day for Curio Hunter When Famous Elm is Cut", no byline, article in The Harvard Crimson, October 23, 1920, accessed October 20, 2007
-  Jack, J. G., "The Cambridge Washington Elm", article in the "Bulletin of Popular Information" of Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, December 10, 1931, accessed October 20, 2007
- "The Logan Elm". Retrieved 6 October 2011.
- Sharp, David (2010-01-31). "Do rings of Herbie the elm have age, climate data?". Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ulmus americana|
- Saving the American Elm, by Bruce Carley
- USDA Plant Guide: American Elm
- Flora of North America, Profile and map: U. americana RangeMap:
- Ulmus americana images
- Keith Warren, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. (2002): 'The Status of Elms in the Nursery Industry in 2000'
- Plant atlas synonyms
- The International Plant Names Index
- Ulmus americana fact-page and photographs 1, Michigan State University Plant Encyclopedia
- Ulmus americana photographs 2, Michigan State University Plant Encyclopedia