Characteristics of Himalayan Elm Tree (Ulmus wallichiana) in the Wild

Ulmus wallichiana
Himalayan elm or Bhutan elm (Ulmus wallichiana) is a tree that grows in the mountains from central Nuristan in Afghanistan, through northern Pakistan and northern India to western Nepal at an altitude of 800-3000 m above sea level. This species is closely related to Wych elm (Ulmus glabra).

Himalayan elm is sometimes used incorrectly as Cherry-bark elm (Ulmus villosa), which is also endemic to Kashmir in northern India, but Cherry-bark elm inhabits valleys, not mountain slopes.

In places that are poor in fossil fuel sources, Himalayan elm is highly selected for firewood, as well as for animal feed, thus making it threatened in its natural habitat. But in other places, Himalayan elm is deliberately planted as a shade tree as well as an ornamental tree on roadsides and yards.

The Himalayan Elm (Ulmus wallichiana) is currently categorized as a Vulnerability (VU) species according to the IUCN Red List.

 
Recognizing the difficulties of its cultivation, efforts have been made in India to preserve the Himalayan elm tree by drying the seeds and placing them in refrigerated storage. Himalayan elm is a species that has great commercial potential, research has also been carried out into optimal propagation methods.

Himalayan elm trees were first introduced to the West in the 1920s, with the arrival of specimens at the Arnold Arboretum of Chamba. The tree soon proved completely unsuitable for the cold, dead Boston winter.

However, Simeon Gottfried Albert Doorenbos (a Dutch horticulturist) was able to transplant four shoots, and the following year had a row of strong growing plants. Shortly thereafter, the trees were badly damaged by frost, but in 1938 were used as a source of antifungal genes in a Dutch elm breeding program and crossed with a British winter-hardy cultivar, Exeter elm (Ulmus ‘Exoniensis’).

Himalayan elm is grown in several arboreta in the UK, but by far the largest number is held by Brighton & Hove City Council, holder of the NCCPG elm collection, which has around 60 specimens, including the TROBI Champion on the school grounds in Rottingdean. The trees tend to be rather short in Brighton & Hove, and defoliate easily in times of drought. The tree was propagated and marketed by the Hillier & Sons nursery, Winchester, Hampshire, from 1962 to 1977, during which time 97 trees had been sold.

In North America, Himalayan elm is represented by only two specimens at the US National Arboretum, Washington DC.

 

Characteristics of Himalayan Elm Leaf

Ulmus wallichiana Leaf
Source: alchetron.com

The leaves are elliptic-acuminate, about 13 cm long and 6 cm wide, petioles 5-10 mm long.

 

Characteristics of Himalayan Elm Flower

Ulmus wallichiana Flower
Source: eFlora of India

Inflorescences are small reddish races.

 

Characteristics of Himalayan Elm Fruit

The fruit is small roundabout 13 mm in diameter.

 

Characteristics of Himalayan Elm Tree

Ulmus wallichiana Tree
Source: wikimedia.org

Himalayan elm trees can grow to a height of 30 meters, with a broad crown featuring several ascending branches. The bark is grayish-brown and elongated grooves.

There are no known cultivars of this taxon, nor are they known in the trade. But there are two subspecies, wallichiana and xanthoderma, and various tomentoses identified by Melville & Heybroek. The two can be distinguished by the pubertal variation of young leaves and stems.

 

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