American Elm

Ulmus americana

Henry Hartley

The American Elm was once one of America's most dominant trees. There are many still around, but disease has wiped out many more.

Elms are large trees, reaching 100 feet tall. Their trunks can be four feet wide.


Elms have simple leaves with teeth on the edges. They are usually one to five inches long, and they turn yellow in the Fall. The upper part of the leaf is rough, like sandpaper, and the bottom is smooth.

Michael Clayton, Wisconsin State Herbarium

Steven J. Baskauf, Bioimages

The bark of this tree is light gray with deep furrows.

American Elms have small greenish flowers, organized in clusters on the stems. Fruits are a half-inch long, rounded, and flat. The seeds are called samaras and have hairy edges.

Songbirds, mice, squirrels, woodchucks, and opossums eat the fruit and seeds. Rabbits and deer eat young trees. Bees, butterflies, and other insects visit flowers and help pollinate them. Many insects, especially caterpillars, eat the leaves. Parasitic fungi, such as Oyster Mushrooms grow on the trunk.

Copyright, Mark Brand, UConn Plant Database

Donald R. Farrar, Trees and Shrubs of the Campus of Iowa State University

American Elms are fast growing trees which will quickly take over a field if not diseased. They are sought out by many birds as nest sites. Cavity dwellers, such as woodpeckers, chickadees, squirrels, and raccoons often find homes in this tree.

American Elms grow in forests, fields, and along shores of streams. Their seeds are usually moved by wind or water.

Other trees associated with elms include Red Maple, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Black Willow, Eastern Cottonwood, Silver Maple, and Hackberry.

Dutch Elm Disease is a fungal disease transmitted by bark beetles, including the American Bark Beetle. The beetle eats on a diseased tree and then, when it moves to a new one, spreads the disease.

Helpful fungi can also be found on the roots of this tree. These fungi transmit nutrients through the tree's roots.

Copyright, Mark Brand, UConn Plant Database

Relationships in Nature:

Animals Using as Food Source

Animals Using as Shelter

Associations With Other Plants


Eastern Gray Squirrel

Pileated Woodpecker

Red Maple

Oyster Mushroom Pa

White-tailed Deer

Eastern Gray Squirel

American Sycamore

Honey Bee Po

Honey Bee

Carolina Chickadee


Golden Northern Bumble Bee Po

Golden Northern Bumble Bee


Black Willow

Sassafras A

Virginia Opossum

Black Rat Snake

Mockernut Hickory

Honey Mushroom Pa

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Big Brown Bat

Silver Maple

Turkey Tail Pa

Painted Lady

Mourning Cloak

Virginia Creeper

Dogwood Borer Pa

Mourning Cloak

American Goldfinch

Poison Ivy

Mossy Maple Polypore Pa

Eastern Subterranean Termite

Virginia Opossum

Black Cherry

Japanese Honeysuckle Pa

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Dogday Harvestfly

Eastern White Pine

Beaver C

Oystershell Scale

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Smooth Sumac

Artist's Conk Pa


Painted Lady

Wild Grape

Oystershell Scale Pa

Wood Duck

European Gypsy Moth


Buffalo Treehopper Pa

American Goldfinch

White-tailed Deer

Loblolly Pine

True Katydid

True Katydid

Common Reed

White-throated Sparrow

Tufted Titmouse

Tussock Sedge


Polyphemus Moth

Willow Oak


Oystershell Scale

Japanese Honeysuckle

Eastern Cottontail

Dogwood Borer

Black-eyed Susan

Dogwood Borer

Bald-faced Hornet

Black Locust

Relationship to Humans:

American Elms were a favorite tree of Americans for years. We would plant them along streets in our cities and towns. They were used for landscaping and to control steam erosion. Unfortunately, the arrival of Dutch Elm Disease has killed many trees. American Elms continue to be a good food source and nesting site for wildlife. Its wood has been used for crates, boxes, furniture, baskets, and paneling.


Ulmus americana


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