Characteristics of Asiatic Elm / Dwarf Elm Tree (Ulmus pumila) in the Wild

Ulmus pumila
Asiatic elm or Dwarf elm (Ulmus pumila) is a species of elm tree native to Central Asia, including eastern Siberia, the Russian Far East, Mongolia, Tibet, northern China, India (northern Kashmir), and Korea. This tree is also sometimes referred to as the Siberian Elm.

Many bonsai enthusiasts mistakenly identify the Asiatic elm and refer to it as the Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia), but the two are different species.

Asiatic elm is found growing naturally in the semi-desert areas of Central Asia. Today Asiatic elm is widely cultivated throughout Asia, North America, Argentina, and southern Europe.

As an ornamental tree, Asiatic elm is a tree that tends to be short-lived, with brittle wood and an irregular crown shape, but retains popularity due to its rapid growth. The Siberian Elm has been described as “one of the worst in the world… an ornamental tree that doesn’t deserve to be planted anywhere”. But in the US around the 1950s, Asiatic elm was widely promoted as a fast-growing hedge substitute for privet, and as a result, is now widely found in almost all states.

The Asiatic elm (Ulmus pumila) has become an invasive species throughout much of central Mexico, north across the eastern and central United States to Ontario, and Canada. It also hybridized in the wild with the Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) native to the United States, prompting conservation concerns for the latter species. In South America, this tree has spread throughout most of the Pampas, Argentina.

In Europe, the Asiatic elm has become widespread in Spain, and hybridized widely there with the Field (Ulmus minor), causing conservation problems for the latter species.


Characteristics of Asiatic Elm Leaf

Ulmus pumila Leaf

The leaves are ovate to lanceolate, 2-8 × 1-3.5 cm in diameter, dark green and turn yellow in autumn. Winter shoots are dark brown to red-brown, round to ovate.


Characteristics of Asiatic Elm Flower

Ulmus pumila Flower

Each flower is about 3 mm in size, has green petals with 4-5 lobes, 4-8 stamens with brownish red, and green pistil with two-lobed style. Unlike most elms, Asiatic elms are capable of successful self-pollination.

Flowers bloom for a week in early spring before the leaves appear.


Characteristics of Asiatic Elm Fruit

Ulmus pumila Fruit

The fruit is orbicular to elliptical, about 1-2 × 1-1.5 cm in size, glabrous, and 1-2 mm in the stem.


Characteristics of Asiatic Elm Tree

Ulmus pumila Tree

Asiatic elm can grow into a medium-sized tree with a height of 20-25 meters. The bark is dark gray and has irregular longitudinal cracks.

This tree has a short life in temperate climates, rarely reaching more than 60 years, but in its natural environment, it can live between 100 and 150 years. the giant specimen, 45 km southeast of Khanbogt south of the Gobi, which had a trunk thickness of 5.5 m in 2009, is estimated to be 250 years old (based on the average annual ring width).


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