The American Elm (Ulmus americana) is a native North American tree in the Ulmaceae family. Growing quickly when young, the American Elm has a broad or upright, vase-shaped silhouette, 80 to 100 feet high and 60 to 120 feet wide. Trunks on older trees can reach to seven feet across. Trees have an extensive but shallow root system. Propagation is by seed or cuttings; young plants transplant easily.
The six inch long, deciduous, double serrated leaves are dark green throughout the year, fading to yellow before dropping in fall. In early spring, before the new leaves unfold, its rather inconspicuous small green flowers appear on pendulous stalks. These blooms are followed by green, wafer-like seedpods which mature soon after flowering is finished. The seeds are quite popular with both birds and wildlife. American Elms must be at least 15 years old before they will bear seed.
The wood of American Elm is very hard and was a valuable timber tree used for lumber, furniture and veneer. Native Americans once made canoes out of American Elm trunks, and early settlers would steam the wood so it could be bent to make barrels and wheel hoops.
Once a very popular and long-lived (300+ years) shade and street tree, American Elm suffered a dramatic decline with the introduction of Dutch elm disease, a fungus spread by a bark beetle. It is vital to the health of existing trees that a program of monitoring be in place to administer special care to these disease- and pest-sensitive trees.