Elm - Ulmus

Elm - Ulmus

The Elm

The elm, common name for ulmus, belonging to the Ulmaceae family, is a large tree, native to Europe, Asia and North America, depending on the different species. In our country there are mainly rural and mountain species.

The elm can reach up to 30 meters in height and its foliage, which is oval or conical, reaches up to 10 meters in width. Its bark is gray in color and has a smooth surface as regards young specimens. Over time, its hue tends to dark brown and the bark highlights different and relevant cracks. The plant therefore presents itself with an imposing structure and a certain elegance, and is used at an ornamental level both as an isolated specimen and accompanied by other trees with the purpose of treeing avenues in large gardens, but also in parks or in spacious estates. Her hair, wide and elegant, is one of the hallmarks of her beauty. Due to the fact that it is not too dense, the plant grows much better in those places where there is a good brightness but also a suitable shelter from the sun.

Elm wood

The wood it produces is resistant and of a good elastic consistency. An important note: due to the "graphiosis" the elm has had very serious problems for the continuation of the species. This disease has in fact killed elms in various regions of Europe and America. Even the English elm, a very important and widespread figure in the frame of the landscape of Great Britain, has been almost exterminated by this lethal disease. Fortunately, many other types of elms have resisted the disease.

The elm wood it is used above all for the construction of furniture such as wardrobes, sideboards, bedside tables and kitchens or for the creation of fine parquet thanks to the splendid veins of this essence, very beautiful are the parquet in elm wood antique that highlight the particularities of the wood.

Leaves, flowers, fruits

Its leaves are simple, with a very rough surface and a dark green hue. They have an oval shape and have fine teeth at their edges. The flowers are not particularly visible, reaching a length of about one centimeter. The fruits are samaras. They have a green color and are very showy.


The first step is to remove the suckers which will be kept in the nursery for at least two years. Then you can continue with the final planting, preferably located in the heart of autumn. A second way is to prepare some offshoots to be removed from the mother plant after a maximum of two years and then proceed with the final implantation.


Its tolerance extends to different kinds of terrain. However, it prefers deep and fertile soils, with the ability to tolerate even light compaction.


Its predilection goes to fully sunny places. It also easily tolerates environments with large temperature variations in both winter and summer. Its ability to withstand air pollution is good, so it is suitable for growing in built-up areas.


The elm does not need regular pruning. These occur at the time of the removal of the suckers which are then used for the multiplication of the plant.


The most dangerous attacks for this tree come from aphids and larvae, caterpillars and bark beetles, those that cause the spread of the very dangerous elm graphiosis. Aphids and moths affect the foliage, causing them to dry out and fall off. Finally, there are the lignivorous fungi that strike the tree by passing through the cracks in the dead wood.


In nature, the elm occurs in suggestive woods, both in the plains and in the hills. The tree is also frequently used for its ornamental value, especially in parks, gardens and tree-lined avenues, and it is very easy to see it in the green spaces of cities. As mentioned, a serious problem affecting the tree was the spread of the graphiosis fungus which thinned out the specimens and decreased its use. The elm is however useful in the embellishment of parks and gardens, but also for the reforestation of natural areas.

Other more practical uses of elm are for the production of furniture and other elements for the home such as doors, floors and plywood panels. Among the best qualities of elm wood we must certainly point out the ease with which it is worked and above all the good resistance to water.

One of the historical uses of the elm that has currently been abandoned is related to its use for the creation of stakes for the vine.


There are several important species of elm. The most common are:ulmus americana, native to North America, large, reaching 35 meters in height and more than ten meters in diameter of foliage. It has leaves that reach 15 centimeters, rough and with double serrated edges. It is one of the most aesthetically appreciated specimens in America, however it does not grow so well even in Europe.

L'ulmus caprinifolia, or field elm, widespread in Europe, reaches 30 meters in height, has lighter and smoother leaves than the previous one and the parts of the branch farthest from the trunk are pendulous.

L'ulmus glabra, or mountain elm, up to 40 meters high and foliage with a typical egg shape. It has clear leaves and “cultivars” such as the exoniens, columnar, or the pendula, weeping, which are easily cultivated in the lawn.

L'ulmus hollandica, or Dutch elm, widespread in Western Europe, has an expanded crown and the final part of the pendulous branches. It has smooth dark green leaves and its “cultivar” is called “vegeta”, suitable for lawns and gardens.

Finally theulmus procera, or English elm, widespread in northern and southern Europe, has dark green leaves and rough, yellow in autumn. Widely used as an arboreal specimen, its "cultivars" are the Louis van Houttei, with typical yellow leaves and the "variegata", so called because it has variegated white leaves.

Diseases of the Elm

The elm is a plant that has always been appreciated for its rusticity and for its strength in growing and developing. However, it can happen that very often it is attacked by a very dangerous fungus that causes the loss of its leaves and therefore the death of the branches and branches of the whole plant. This fungus is called Ophiostoma ulmi and causes the so-called graphiosis of the elm, a disease that, even if it is known externally, actually acts internally, inside the plant's lymphatic vessels. In fact, graphiosis blocks the transport of the phloem into the plant and therefore of the water and leaves begin to lack a fundamental part for their physiology. This deficiency affects the health of the leaves which wither and turn yellow before drying out and dying with the rest of the plant. The person responsible for the transmission of this fungus is a bark beetle, a beetle that for part of its life lives in the bark of the elm where it digs numerous tunnels.

The methods of fighting elm graphiosis are mainly related to prevention, aimed at limiting the spread of infection, and the elimination of infected material. Prevention can be carried out by choosing at the time of planting the material resistant to the disease, plants obtained through genetic selection that are less sensitive to the attack of the fungus.

To treat sick plants, on the other hand, the first interventions to be carried out and the cheapest ones are related to the elimination of the infected material by removing the portions of diseased branches. The infected material must be burned and the tools used for cutting must be disinfected with great care to prevent the spread and proliferation of the disease.

The buds of Ulmus campestris act as dermoprotective and regularizing the secretions of the sebaceous glands of the skin: indicated in juvenile acne, in inflammatory "oozing" eczema and in all moist dermatoses, in association with Ribes nigrum they represent the remedy for acute excess of eczema. They slow down and normalize the seborrheic secretion of the scalp and face by regulating the secretion of the sebaceous glands.

-regularization of the secretion of the sebaceous glands

-activation of hepatic macrophages

Main indications:

-turbs of the catabolism of nucleoproteins

40 drops 2-3 times a day if prescribed alone, 50-70 drops 1 time a day if in combination or alternation with other bud derivatives.

Main clinical indications:

General affections: remedy for any inflammatory state in the exudative, detoxifying, regulation and detoxification phase of the matrix

Metabolic affections: dysmetabolism of nucleoproteins, hyper-uricemia (with Fraxinus exc), metabolic overload

Skin system: Juvenile acne (with Juglans regia, Ribes nigrum and Platanus orientalis), acne inversa (with Juglans regia, Ribes nigrum and Platanus orientalis), pustular acne, acne rosacea, Seborrheic alopecia, Milk crust (with Juglans regia), seborrheic dermatitis, dermatitis allergic (with Ribes nigrum), exudative dermatitis, bullous dermatosis, moist and oozing dermatosis, pustular dermatosis (with Juglans regia), rebellious dermatosis, vesicular eczema not infected (with Ribes nigrum) and infected (with Juglans regia), scaly dermatosis, dysbiosis skin with modification of the composition of sebum and sweat, dyshidrosis, acute eczema or eczematous flushing (with Ribes nigrum), generalized eczema, bullous eczema, oozing eczema (with Ribes nigrum), wet eczema, uninfected vesicular eczema (with Ribes nigrum se infected with Juglans regia), bullous extems, urticaria (with Ribes nigrum), oily and shiny skin, acid sweating and foul-smelling perspiration, herpes (with Juglans regia), sever herpes vanti (with Rosa canina), ocular herpes (with Rosa canina), herpes simplex, herpes zoster (with Acer campestre and Prunus spinosa), axillary hidradenitis suppurativa (with Juglans regia), impetigo (with Juglans regia), changes in the composition of the sebum skin and sweat, icorous sores (with Juglans regia), canker sores, aphthous stomatitis, acid sweating, foul-smelling perspiration, skin ulcerations, skin burns, eczematous flushing (with Ribes nigrum)

Gastro-enteric system: diarrhea (with Vaccinium myrtillus and Vaccinium vitis idaea)

Ocular apparatus: herpetic keratitis (adjuvant, with Rosa canina), ocular herpes (with Rosa canina)

Respiratory system: peicarditis (adjuvant, with Crataegus oxyacantha), exudative pleurisy (adjuvant)

Skeletal and osteo-articular system: remineralizing action, gout (with Fraxinus exc, Populus nigra, Ribes nigrum and Salix alba), synovitis (with Pinus montana, Ribes nigrum and Rosa canina)

Urogenital system: vaginal catarrhs, cervicitis, vicariant leucorrhoea

Immune system: herpes simplex and zoster, genital herpes, hyper-γ-globulinemic syndrome with a tendency to fibrosclerosis, chicken pox

Mucous system: canker sores, mucositis, aphthous stomatitis

Central nervous system: improves paradoxical sleep

-Fraxinus excelsior + Populus nigra + Ribes nigrum: gout, hyperuricemia

-Juglans regia: infected eczema, hidradenitis

-Ribes nigrum: eczema, urticaria, bullous and vesicular dermatitis

Japanese elm tree facts

The Japanese elm comprises not one, but six genera with 35 elm species native to Japan. They are all deciduous trees or shrubs native to Japan and northeastern Asia.

Japanese elms are resistant to Dutch elm disease, a fatal disease for American elm. A type of Japanese elm, Ulmus davidiana var. japonica, is so highly resistant that it has been used to develop resistant cultivars.

Japanese elms can mature up to 55 feet tall with 35 feet of coverage. The bark is greyish brown in color and the crown of the tree is rounded and extends in the shape of an umbrella. The fruits of Japanese elms depend on the genera and variety of the tree. Some are samaras and some are nuts.


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Tienen hojas alternas, simples y serradas, generally asimétricas en la base. Las flores, inconspicuas, son hermafroditas sin pétalos y con cáliz persistente. Sus frutos son sámaras. Primary or pivoting Árbol de raíz muy fuerte que actúa as a pilot and who has used it desde el siglo XII hasta the actualidad para estabilizar el suelo de las orillas de los canales and pólderes de los Países Bajos.

El género has sido víctima de una epidemic llamada "grafiosis", muy activa en los últimos 100 años. Está causada por un hongo (Ceratocystis ulmi) that ataca a la mayoría de las especies que como resultado están hoy día en peligro de extinción (if considered one of the árboles most frecuentes del mundo antes de la epidemic). Escarabajos (Hylurgopinus rufipes, American y el European Scolytus multistriatus) portadores del hongo propagan la enfermedad, mainly in eastern Europe. If cree that the common elm population has declined between 80 and 90% [2]

La corteza se utiliza para hacer tinturas para el tratamiento de infecciones severas causadas por bacterias del género Clostridium muchas veces resistentes a los antibióticos.

Pests and diseases [edit]

Dutch elm disease [edit]

Dutch elm disease (DED) devastated elms throughout Europe and much of North America in the second half of the 20th century. It derives its name 'Dutch' from the first description of the disease and its cause in the 1920s by the Dutch botanists Bea Schwarz and Christina Johanna Buisman. Owing to its geographical isolation and effective quarantine enforcement, Australia, has so far remained unaffected by Dutch Elm Disease, as have the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia in western Canada.

DED is caused by a micro-fungus transmitted by two species of Scolytus elm-bark beetle which act as vectors. The disease affects all species of elm native to North America and Europe, but many Asiatic species have evolved anti-fungal genes and are resistant. Fungal spores, introduced into wounds in the tree caused by the beetles, invade the xylem or vascular system. The tree responds by producing tyloses, effectively blocking the flow from roots to leaves. Woodland trees in North America are not quite as susceptible to the disease because they usually lack the root-grafting of the urban elms and are somewhat more isolated from each other. In France, inoculation with the fungus of over three hundred clones of the European species failed to find a single variety possessed of any significant resistance.

The first, less aggressive strain of the disease fungus, Ophiostoma ulmi, arrived in Europe from Asia in 1910, and was accidentally introduced to North America in 1928. It was steadily weakened by viruses in Europe and had all but disappeared by the 1940s. However, the disease had a much greater and long-lasting impact in North America, owing to the greater susceptibility of the American elm, Ulmus americana, which masked the emergence of the second, far more virulent strain of the disease Ophiostoma novo-ulmi. It appeared in the United States sometime in the 1940s, and was originally believed to be a mutation of O. ulmi. Limited gene flow from O. ulmi to O. novo-ulmi was probably responsible for the creation of the North American subspecies O. novo-ulmi subsp. American. It was first recognized in Britain in the early 1970s, believed to have been introduced via a cargo of Canadian rock elm destined for the boatbuilding industry, and rapidly eradicated most of the mature elms from western Europe. A second subspecies, O. novo-ulmi subsp. novo-ulmi, caused similar devastation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is now believed that it was this subspecies which was introduced to North America and, like O. ulmi, probably originated in Asia. The two subspecies have now hybridized in Europe where their ranges have overlapped. [9] The hypothesis that O. novo-ulmi arose from a hybrid of the original O. ulmi and another strain endemic to the Himalaya, Ophiostoma himal-ulmi is now discredited. [10]

There is no sign of the current pandemic waning, and no evidence of a susceptibility of the fungus to a disease of its own caused by d-factors: naturally occurring virus-like agents that severely debilitated the original O. ulmi and reduced its sporulation. [11]

Elm phloem necrosis [edit]

Elm phloem necrosis (elm yellows) is a disease of elm trees that is spread by leafhoppers or by root grafts. [12] This very aggressive disease, with no known cure, occurs in the Eastern United States, southern Ontario in Canada, and Europe. It is caused by phytoplasmas which infect the phloem (inner bark) of the tree. [13] Infection and death of the phloem effectively girdles the tree and stops the flow of water and nutrients. The disease affects both wild-growing and cultivated trees. Occasionally, cutting the infected tree before the disease completely establishes itself and cleanup and prompt disposal of infected matter has resulted in the plant's survival via stump-sprouts.

Insects [edit]

Most serious of the elm pests is the elm leaf beetle Xanthogaleruca luteola, which can decimate foliage, although rarely with fatal results. The beetle was accidentally introduced to North America from Europe. Another unwelcome immigrant to North America is the Japanese beetle Popillia japonica. In both instances the beetles cause far more damage in North America owing to the absence of the predators present in their native lands. In Australia, introduced elm trees are sometimes used as foodplants by the larvae of hepialid moths of the genus Aenetus. These burrow horizontally into the trunk then vertically down. [14] [15]

Birds [edit]

Sapsucker woodpeckers have a great love of young elm trees. [ citation needed ]

Development of trees resistant to Dutch elm disease [edit]

Efforts to develop DED-resistant cultivars began in the Netherlands in 1928 and continued, uninterrupted by World War II, until 1992. [17] Similar programs were initiated in North America (1937), Italy (1978), and Spain (1986). Research has followed two paths:

Species and species cultivars [edit]

In North America, careful selection has produced a number of trees resistant not only to DED, but also to the droughts and cold winters that occur within the continent. Research in the United States has concentrated on the American elm (Ulmus americana), resulting in the release of DED-resistant clones, notably the cultivars 'Valley Forge' and 'Jefferson'. Much work has also been done into the selection of disease-resistant Asiatic species and cultivars. [18] [19]

In 1993, Mariam B. Sticklen and James L. Sherald reported the results of experiments funded by the United States National Park Service and conducted at Michigan State University in East Lansing that were designed to apply genetic engineering techniques to the development of DED-resistant strains of American elm trees. [20] In 2007, AE Newhouse and F Schrodt of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse reported that young transgenic American elm trees had shown reduced DED symptoms and normal mycorrhizal colonization. [21]

In Europe, the European white elm (Ulmus laevis) has received much attention. While this elm has little innate resistance to Dutch elm disease, it is not favored by the vector bark beetles and thus only becomes colonized and infected when there are no other choices, a rare situation in western Europe. Research in Spain has suggested that it may be the presence of a triterpene, alnulin, which makes the tree bark unattractive to the beetle species that spread the disease. [22] However this possibility has not been conclusively proven. [23] More recently, field elms Ulmus minor highly resistant to DED have been discovered in Spain, and form the basis of a major breeding program. [24]

Hybrid cultivars [edit]

Owing to their innate resistance to Dutch elm disease, Asiatic species have been crossed with European species, or with other Asiatic elms, to produce trees which are both highly resistant to disease and tolerant of native climates. After a number of false dawns in the 1970s, this approach has produced a range of reliable hybrid cultivars now commercially available in North America and Europe. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] Disease resistance is invariably carried by the female parent. [32]

However, some of these cultivars, notably those with the Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) in their ancestry, lack the forms for which the iconic American Elm and English Elm were prized. Moreover, several exported to northwestern Europe have proven unsuited to the maritime climate conditions there, notably because of their intolerance of anoxic conditions resulting from ponding on poorly drained soils in winter. Dutch hybridizations invariably included the Himalayan elm (Ulmus wallichiana) as a source of anti-fungal genes and have proven more tolerant of wet ground they should also ultimately reach a greater size. However, the susceptibility of the cultivar 'Lobel', used as a control in Italian trials, to elm yellows has now (2014) raised a question mark over all the Dutch clones. [33]

A number of highly resistant Ulmus cultivars has been released since 2000 by the Institute of Plant Protection in Florence, most commonly featuring crosses of the Dutch cultivar 'Plantijn' with the Siberian Elm to produce resistant trees better adapted to the Mediterranean climate. [26]

Cautions regarding novel cultivars [edit]

Elms take many decades to grow to maturity, and as the introduction of these disease-resistant cultivars is relatively recent, their long-term performance and ultimate size and form cannot be predicted with certainty. The National Elm Trial in North America, begun in 2005, is a nationwide trial to assess strengths and weaknesses of the 19 leading cultivars raised in the US over a ten-year period European cultivars have been excluded. [34] Meanwhile, in Europe, American and European cultivars are being assessed in field trials started in 2000 by the UK charity Butterfly Conservation. [35]


They can reach 25-30 m in height, the leaves are deciduous, simple, ovoid with a serrated margin and a strongly asymmetrical lamina. The flowers are hermaphrodite, with an upper ovary and gathered in inflorescences. The fruit is a samara.

The genre Ulmus includes the following species: [1]

In Italy there are 4 species:

  • Ulmus glabra widespread in the thermophilic woods of the whole peninsula
  • Ulmus minor present in all regions
  • Ulmus canescens with southern distribution
  • Ulmus laevis in the humid woods of northern and central Italy

Elms have been heavily decimated by a disease called graphiosis, caused by a fungus of Asian origin, which reached Europe around 1920 and North America in 1928.

Video: Alm Ulmus glabra