White Elm Ulmus laevis

Scientific Name: Ulmus laevis (Ulmaceae).

English Name: White Elm; European White Elm; Fluttering Elm; Spreading Elm; Stately Elm; Russian Elm (Elm family).

French Name: L'Orme lisse (='smooth elm').

5 Key Characters:
  • large deciduous tree (more than 30 m high when mature, with a 30 m spread).
  • shallow rooted and forms distinctive buttresses around the base.
  • oval leaves, distinctly assymmetrical at the base, thin and papery, often translucent.
  • flowers in clusters on long stems, forming winged seeds.
  • drops its leaves very early in autumn.

Lookalikes: Wych Elm U. glabra, which makes a more symmetrical and neat looking tree, with short stemmed flowers.

Habitat: Lowland river valleys with alluvial soil. Tolerates extended waterlogging but is not drought tolerant. Tends to favour slightly acidic, flint/chirt rich soil, but known to grow well at certain chalky sites.

Flowering Period: March.

Status: Rarely infected by Dutch Elm Disease, the fungal infection carried by bark beetles that has devastated most other species of elm. However, the species is in decline due to the removal of woodland in river valleys. Easily damaged by strong winds and the timber is poor quality, even as firewood. Important caterpillar host plant for White Letter Hairstreak butterfly Satyrium w-album. Tolerates soil compaction, air pollution and salt from de-icing roads, so sometimes used in urban settings or roadside plantings.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

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