Characteristics of European White Elm Tree (Ulmus laevis) in the Wild

Ulmus laevis
European white elm or White elm (Ulmus laevis) is a species of deciduous tree native to Europe, from northeastern France to southern Finland, east beyond the Urals to Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, and southeast to Bulgaria and Crimea. There are also separate populations in the Caucasus and Spain.

This species was first identified as Ulmus laevis by Pallas, in his book Flora Rossica published in 1784. The tree is allogamous and most closely related to the American elm (Ulmus americana).

European white elm is most commonly found along rivers such as the Volga and Danube, it is one of the few elms that tolerate anoxic soil conditions and prolonged waterlogging.

The European white elm is threatened by habitat destruction and disturbance in several countries, most notably Spain. Flood control schemes are particularly dangerous, as seed dispersal depends on flooding, while abstraction from aquifers that lower groundwater levels have disrupted tree development.

There are two largest known European white elm trees in Europe, one at Gülitz in Germany with a trunk diameter of 3.1 meters, and in Komorów in Poland with a trunk diameter of 2.96 meters, known as Witcher. Other large trees survive in Casteau, Belgium with a trunk circumference of 5.15 meters, in Rahnsdorf near Berlin with a trunk circumference of 4.5 meters, and Ritvala, Finland with a trunk circumference of 4.49 meters.

European white elm is sometimes grown as a roadside tree, ornamental tree, living hedge, and bonsai subject in the UK and other places with suitable climates.


Characteristics of European White Elm Leaf

Ulmus laevis Leaf

The leaves are alternate, simple with a very asymmetric base, about 10 cm long and 7 cm wide, relatively thin, often almost papery in texture and translucent, smooth above and below. Significantly, the leaf veins did not divide from the central veins to the leaf margins.

The European white elm leaves fall earlier in the fall than other European elm species.


Characteristics of European White Elm Flower

Ulmus laevis Flower

The flower arrangements are an average of 20 mm long, cream, and wind-pollinated. The flowers appear in front of the leaves in early spring in clusters of 15-30, each flower measuring about 3-4 mm.


Characteristics of European White Elm Fruit

Ulmus laevis Fruit

The fruit is winged, 15 mm long and 10 mm wide with ciliated margins, single round 5 mm long, and ripens in late spring.


Characteristics of European White Elm Tree

Ulmus laevis Tree

The European white elm is similar in stature to the Wych elm (Ulmus glabra), slightly less symmetrical, with a looser, untidy branch structure and a messy crown. Mature trees can reach a height and width of up to 30 meters, with a trunk circumference of 2 meters.

The European white elm’s root system is shallow and broad which eventually forms a tall buttress around the base of the stem. The bark is smooth on young trees, cracked and scaly gray in mature trees, and finally cracked deeply on older trees.

The European white elm tree is a riparian tree, it can withstand more than three months of continuous flooding.

It is known that the European white elm tree has been planted in the province of Xinjiang and elsewhere in northern China. This tree has also been planted in Australia.


European white elm is easy to grow from seed sown in regular compost and is well cared for. Germination occurs within a week even without heat, the best seedlings reach half a meter in their first year. European white elm can also be propagated through branch cuttings taken in June, which is also a reliable method. Cuttings grow very quickly, in either a week or two, and produce a dense root matrix.


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