American elm (Ulmus americana)

american elm leaves

Click on the images to help you identify an American elm.



Large, height usually 50' to 70' with a diameter of 24" to 48", although it can reach a height of 100' with a diameter of up to 48"; wide-spreading branches that droop at the ends; the crown is vase-shaped.


Dark, ashy gray; divided into irregular, flat-topped, thick ridges; generally firm, although on older trees it tends to come off in flakes; outer bark layers alternating white and reddish-brown in cross-section.


Simple, alternate on stem, length 4" to 6"; rather thick, somewhat one-sided, dark green, doubly toothed on margin, generally rough above, smooth below; veins very pronounced, running in parallel lines from midrib to edge of leaf; turns yellow in autumn.

Fruit (seed)

Winged samara, light green, oval, turning tan when mature; seed portion in the center surrounded by the wing; outer end of each wing deeply notched; seeds hang in clusters, ripen in spring, and are widely scattered by the wind.


Hardy throughout the state; more abundant on rich bottomlands in the southern half of Minnesota; moderately tolerant, fast-growing. Very susceptible to Dutch elm disease.

Wood uses

Light brown, heavy, hard, strong, tough, difficult to split; used for saddle trees, boats and ships, furniture, barrel staves and hoops, and veneer for baskets and crates.

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