Siberian elm is deciduous tree that has been widely planted in Minnesota. It has spread to open, sunny areas such as roadsides and grasslands where it can form dense thickets.
Siberian elm is a deciduous tree, 30 – 60 feet tall, with an open rounded crown and slender, spreading branches.
Leaves and stem
Leaves are arranged alternately along the stems. They are small (1- 2 inches), elliptic, toothed, short-pointed at the tip, and slightly uneven at the base (although much less so than American elm). On mature trees, bark is dark gray with shallow grooves. Silver-gray twigs have a zig-zag shape with a leaf bud at each bend.
Siberian elm flowers are light green to reddish, lack petals and occur in small, compact, drooping clusters of two to five. Flowers appear between March and May, before leaves develop.
Siberian elm fruit is called a samara. The samara is winged, round, and smooth and contains one seed. The fruit hangs in clusters and is spread by the wind.
Siberian elm has a shallow and widely spreading root system. When Siberian elm trees are cut, they can resprout from the stump and roots.
Siberian elm is a perennial deciduous tree that grows well in disturbed areas and blooms from March to May. Its seed germination rate is high and seedlings establish quickly in sparsely vegetated areas. It often grows in open, sunny areas such as roadsides, grasslands, and along waterways.
Origin and spread
A native of eastern Asia, Siberian elm was introduced to the U.S. in the 1860s for its hardiness, fast growth, and ability to grow in various moisture conditions. It is resistant to Dutch elm disease. It is sold commercially as a shelterbelt and windbreak tree. Siberian elm is found throughout the Midwest and most Minnesota counties. Siberian elm is generally no longer recommended for planting due to its invasiveness, brittle branches that can break easily, and susceptibility to pest problems.
Refer to EDDMapS Distribution Maps for current distribution.
Don't be fooled by these look-alikes
- American elm, Ulmus americana (native) - Has much larger leaves than Siberian elm (2.8 inches long versus under 2 inches long for Siberian elm).
- Red elm, Ulmus rubra (native) - Has much larger leaves than Siberian elm (2.8 inches long versus under 2 inches long for Siberian elm).
- Lacebark elm, Ulmus parviflora (non-native) - Flowers in late summer or fall versus March to May for Siberian elm. The tip and teeth of leaves are less pointed and more blunt than Siberian elm leaves.
- Regulatory classification
This species is not regulated.
- Threat to Minnesota
The tree can invade and dominate disturbed prairies in just a few years.
- What you should do
One way that invasive plant seeds and fragments can spread is in soil. Sometimes plants are planted purposefully. You can prevent the spread of invasive plants.
- REMOVE plants, animals and mud from boots, gear, pets and vehicles.
- CLEAN your gear before entering and leaving the recreation site.
- STAY on designated roads and trails.
- PLANT non-invasive species.
- Native Substitutes
- Control Methods
Mechanical control can be done by girdling trees in late spring – plants will die over one to two years. Pulling seedlings by hand and prescribed burning can also be effective.
Herbicide control can be done by cutting the stem and applying glyphosate or triclopyr to the cut stump. Oil-based triclopyr ester products can also be sprayed along the base of an un-cut stem, coating all sides of the lower 12-18 inches of the main stem. These are systemic herbicides that are taken up by plants and move within the plant, which can kill leaves, stems, and roots.
This species is unregulated, but you can add to the public information about this species by reporting new occurrences through EDDMapS.
- Woody vegetation control (University of Minnesota Extension)
- Siberian elm identification (Friends of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden)
- Siberian elm identification and management (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)
- Siberian elm identification and management (Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes Collaborative)