Landowner Fact Sheets

American elm Ulmus americana play

American elm is a deciduous species that is most common on moist to wet sites. It is widely distributed across central and eastern North America. With its characteristic vase shaped form, it was once the quintessential American shade tree. The spread of Dutch elm disease has greatly reduced the prevalence and use of American elms in the landscape.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Intermediate shade tolerance and fast growth allow for regeneration by clearcut, seed-tree, shelterwood, and group selection methods. American elm sustains good growth rates into advanced age better than many of its common associates.

American elm prefers deep, rich soils on bottomlands. It is a common streambank tree.


In the open, the trunk is usually divided into several large, ascending and arching limbs, ending in a maze of graceful drooping branchlets.

Timber Value
American elm is used for furniture, flooring, construction and mining timbers, agricultural implements, veneer for boxes, crates, baskets, pulp and paper products, and fuelwood.

Wildlife Value
Seeds, flower buds, and flowers are eaten by birds and small mammals.
Attracts mice, squirrels, opposum, rabbits, deer, ruffed grouse, northern bobwhite

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
American elm was once a favorite shade tree, lining the streets of innumerable towns and cities. Dutch elm disease has been largely eliminated the tree as a ornamental. Dutch elm disease is a fungus introduced to North America via a shipment of logs in 1930. Bark beetles and root grafting by adjacent trees allow the fungus to enter the vascular systems of the trees. The trees react with defense mechanisms that further constrict the flow of water and nutrients, further weakening the trees. Eventually, life cannot be sustained. Dutch elm disease was first discovered in Ohio and has since spread all across North America, except for arid areas of the U.S. southwest. The disease can be treated (but not cured) through the stem injection of fungicides. A few dutch elm disease resistant varieties are available for planting including ‘Valley Forge, ‘Princeton’ and ‘Jefferson’.

Latin Meaning
Ulmus: Latin name / americana: of America

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.