Smooth leaved elm, also known as (Ulmus minor var. minor) can be found in parts of Europe and southern parts of England. We are unsure if this particular species is actually native to the United Kingdom. |
The Smooth leaved elm is closely tied to other native elms and seems to be getting stronger at fighting Dutch elm disease as it reproduces better from seed over other elms.
Smooth Leaved Elm Identification:
A mature smooth leaved elm will grow up to 30m tall. Its bark is often rigged with crossing patterns and is a brown to grey colour. The brown twigs are long and sometimes have rigged wings.
The leaves are shiny, oval shaped with serrated edges and feel leathery and they measure about 6-15cm long; the base of the leaf is asymmetrical and has a pointed tip. Elm trees have a hermaphrodite reproductive system, which means that the male and female organs are found in the same flower. The pink to red flowers hang in groups of tassels and appear during February and March. Pollination occurs by wind and the females turn into small fruits with wings also called samaras; they then get dispersed by wind.
Interesting fact: nearly every large town in England used wooden water pipes made from elm timber, before metal was made commercially available.
Significance to Wildlife:
You will find many species of birds feasting on the seeds and caterpillars love the leaves and regularly eat the foliage. Some of these include the peppered and the white spotted pinion moth. White letter hairstreak caterpillars regularly feed off the tree but there numbers have started to decline since the arrival of Dutch elm disease.
Myths and Legends:
Historically, elms were associated with sadness and death, maybe because the dead branches can fall off with no warning. The timber was also a popular choice for making coffins.
How We Use the Tree:
The timber is hard and strong with a tightly-twisted grain. It is water resistant and was used to make wooden water pipes, boats and boat parts. Other uses include, making furniture, coffins, wooden wheel hubs and floorboards.
Threats, Pests and Diseases:
The smooth leaved elm population has dramatically declined since the arrival of a fungal pathogen called Dutch elm disease. It was first discovered back in the 1960s and continues to be a major threat to elm trees today. We are now finding that elms reproducing from seed have a higher resistant to the disease.
Galls mites and aphids can also be a problem for the tree. These are mostly problems coming from fruit trees, especially cultivated varieties.
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