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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 3 | Ulmaceae

1. Ulmus Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 225. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 106, 1754.

Elm, orme [Latin ulmus, elm]

Susan L. Sherman-Broyles

Trees, less often shrubs , to 35 m; crowns variable. Bark gray, brown, or olive to reddish, tan, or orange, deeply furrowed, sometimes with plates (smooth when young in Ulmus glabra ). Branches unarmed, slender to stout, some with corky wings; twigs glabrous to pubescent. Leaves sometimes tardily deciduous; stipules falling early. Leaf blade ovate to obovate or elliptic, base usually oblique, sometimes cordate or rounded to cuneate, margins serrate to doubly serrate; venation pinnate. Inflorescences fascicles, racemes, or cymes, pedunculate or subsessile, subtended by 2 bracts. Flowers on branches of previous season, appearing in spring before leaves or in fall, bisexual, pedicellate or sessile; calyx 3-9-lobed; stamens 3-9; styles persistent, deeply 2-lobed. Fruits samaras, usually flattened, membranously winged. x = 14.

Species 20-40 (10 in the flora): temperate regions, Northern Hemisphere, most in Eurasia.

A recent chloroplast DNA study (S. J. Wiegrefe et al. 1994) has led to the proposal of a new subgeneric and sectional classification of elms. The chloroplast DNA data are supported by morphologic, chemical, and nuclear ribosomal DNA evidence and indicate that the "rock" or hard elms ( Ulmus serotina , U . thomasii , U . crassifolia , and U . alata ) are more closely related than indicated by previous subgeneric treatments (C. K. Schneider 1916; I. A. Grudzinskaya 1980).

Most identification manuals include the introduced species, Ulmus glabra , U . procera , and U . parvifolia , and indicate that they are frequently naturalized. That may well be true. Available herbarium specimens are often inadequately labeled or do not reflect current occurrences. Ease of naturalization can be neither corroborated nor disproved. I include the three species in this treatment because they are known to persist and sometimes naturalize locally where the species have been planted. Extensive field work and collection of U . glabra and U . procera are needed to document their naturalized distributions. Ulmus parvifolia has been widely planted in groves and hedgerows in the Midwest and might well be expected to have become naturalized in more rural settings (S. Shetler, pers. comm., 1995).

Street and field elms throughout much of North America have been killed by Dutch elm disease. The pathogen responsible for the disease is Ceratocystis ulmi , a fungus native to Europe that was first discovered in North America in Colorado in the 1930s. Since the rapid spread of the disease in the 1960s, much research has been devoted to development of disease-resistant elms (R. J. Stipes and R. J. Campana 1981). Various hybridization projects, including cloning of disease-resistant elms by the American Research Institute, have been started across the country. Ulmus parvifolia and U . pumila have varying degrees of disease resistance and are utilized as shade trees or in breeding programs (see U . pumila below). Apparently Dutch elm disease also affects U . parviflora , U . glabra , and U . procera ; certainly the latter two species are more common as seedlings than as trees.


Green, P. S. 1964. Registration of cultivar names in Ulmus. Arnoldia (Jamaica Plain) 24: 41-80. Sherman, S. L. 1987. Flavonoid Systematics of Ulmus L. in the United States. M.S. thesis. University of Georgia. Sherman, S. L. and D. E. Giannasi. 1988. Foliar flavonoids of Ulmus in eastern North America. Biochem. Syst. & Ecol. 16: 51-56. Stipes, R. J. and R. J. Campana, eds. 1981. Compendium of Elm Diseases. St. Paul. Stockmarr, J. 1974. SEM studies on pollen grains of North European Ulmus species. Grana 14: 103-107. Wheeler, E., C. A. LaPasha, and Regis B. Miller. 1988. Wood anatomy of elm (Ulmus) and hackberry (Celtis) species native to the United States. I. A. W. A. Bull., N.S. 10: 5-26. Wiegrefe, S. J., K. J. Sytsma, and R. P. Guries. 1994. Phylogeny of elms (Ulmus, Ulmaceae): Molecular evidence for a sectional classification. Syst. Bot. 19: 590-612.

Key using vegetative characters

1 Leaf blade less than 7 cm, margins crenate to serrate, apex obtuse or acute.   (2)
+ Leaf blade greater than 7 cm (except in U. alata, margins at least partially doubly serrate, apex acute to acuminate.   (4)
2 (1) Leaf blade adaxially harshly pubescent, margins crenate to doubly serrate, apex obtuse.   3 Ulmus crassifolia
+ Leaf blade adaxially glabrous, margins singly to doubly serrate, apex acute.   (3)
3 (2) Mature leaf blade 2-3.5 cm wide, lateral veins forking to 3 times per side.   5 Ulmus pumila
+ Mature leaf blade less than 2 cm wide, lateral veins forking 5 or more times per side.   10 Ulmus parvifolia
4 (1) Leaf blade abaxially tomentose or villous with tufts or hairs in axils of veins, adaxially harshly scabrous or strigose to sparsely scabrous.   (5)
+ Leaf blade abaxially tomentose to glabrous, pubescence in axils of veins present or absent, adaxially glabrous.   (7)
5 (4) Bud scales red, margins red-tomentose; leaf blade marginally ciliate.   4 Ulmus rubra
+ Bud scales reddish brown to dark brown or brown, margins white- or pale-ciliate; leaf blade not ciliate.   (6)
6 (5) Leaf blade base strongly oblique, one side strongly overlapping, covering petiole; branchlets not corky.   8 Ulmus glabra
+ Leaf blade base oblique, not covering petiole; branchlets with corky wings.   9 Ulmus procera
7 (4) Leaf blade lanceolate to oblanceolate, less than 7 cm, base somewhat cordate to oblique; young and old-growth branches with prominent and regular corky wings.   2 Ulmus alata
+ Leaf blade ovate to obovate, more than 7 cm, bases oblique; old growth branches smooth or irregular corky wings or ridges.   (8)
8 (7) Leaf blade abaxially glabrous to slightly pubescent with tufts in axils of veins; branches smooth, not winged.   1 Ulmus americana
+ Leaf blade abaxially soft-pubescent, pubescence absent from or not tufted in axils of veins; branches usually with corky wings.   (9)
9 (8) Leaf blade lanceolate to ovate, abaxially yellow-gold pubescent, pubescence absent from axils, adaxially yellow-green; buds and branches glabrous; leaves mostly 7-8(-14) cm.   6 Ulmus serotina
+ Leaf blade obovate, abaxially white-pubescent, pubescence not tufted in axils, adaxially dark green; buds and young branches pubescent; leaves 9-11(-16) cm.   7 Ulmus thomasii

Lower Taxa


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