Botanical Name: Ulmus americana
Subgenus:Ulmus subg. Oreoptelea
Synonyms: Ulmus floridana.
Common Names: American elm or, White elm, Gray Elm, Water Elm
Ulmus americana is native to Eastern N. America – Newfoundland to Manitoba, Florida and Texas. It grows on rich soils, especially by streams and in lowlands. Found on a range of soil types, from acidic to mildly alkaline.
Ulmus americana is a deciduous tree, growing to 25 m (82ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a medium rate, with a trunk whose diameter at breast height was more than 4 feet (1.2 m), supporting a high, spreading umbrella-like canopy. The leaves are alternate, 7–20 cm long, with double-serrate margins and an oblique base. The perfect flowers are small, purple-brown and, being wind-pollinated, apetalous.
It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in June. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
The flowers are also protogynous, the female parts maturing before the male, thus reducing, but not eliminating, self-fertilization and emerge in early spring before the leaves. The fruit is a flat samara 2 cm long by 1.5 cm broad, with a circular papery wing surrounding the single 4–5 mm seed. As in the closely related European White Elm Ulmus laevis, the flowers and seeds are borne on 1–3 cm long stems. American Elm is wholly insensitive to daylight length (photoperiod), and will continue to grow well into autumn until injured by frost. Ploidy is 2n = 56, or more rarely, 2n = 28.
Landscape Uses:Firewood, Aggressive surface roots possible, Specimen, Street tree. Prefers a fertile soil in full sun, but it can be grown in any soil of at least moderate quality so long as it is well drained. Trees are moderately fast-growing and live for at least 300 years in the wild, but they do not thrive in Britain. This species is particularly susceptible to ‘Dutch elm disease’, a disease that has destroyed the greater part of all the elm trees growing in Britain. The disease is spread by means of beetles. Mature trees killed back by the disease will often regrow from suckers, but these too will succumb when they get larger. There is no effective cure (1992) for the problem, but most E. Asian, though not Himalayan, species are resistant (though not immune) to the disease so the potential exists to use these resistant species to develop new resistant hybrids with the native species. The various species of this genus hybridize freely with each other and pollen is easily saved, so even those species with different flowering times can be hybridized. Special Features:North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Edible Uses: Leaves are edible -eaten raw or cooked. The red inner bark has been used to make a coffee-like drink.
An infusion made from the bark has been used in the treatment of bleeding from the lungs, ruptures, coughs, colds, influenza, dysentery, eye infections, cramps and diarrhoea. An infusion of the bark has been taken by pregnant women to secure stability of children. A decoction of the bark has been used as a wash on wounds. A decoction of the inner bark has been taken in the treatment of severe coughs, colds, menstrual cramps. An infusion of the inner bark has been drunk, and used as a bath, in the treatment of appendicitis. An infusion of the root bark has been used in the treatment of coughs, colds and excessive menstruation. A decoction has been used as an eye wash in the treatment of sore eyes. The inner bark has been used as an emollient on tumours.
A fibre obtained from the stems is used in making paper. The stems are harvested in spring, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The outer bark is removed from the inner bark by scraping or peeling. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then beaten with mallets. The paper is beige in colour. The inner bark is very fibrous and is used in making string and strong ropes. The bark has been used to make various containers, including those used for gathering maple syrup. Wood – hard, strong, heavy, durable, coarse grained, shrinks moderately though it tends to warp and twist, it bends well and is difficult to split. The wood is very durable in water. It weighs 40lb per cubic foot and is harvested commercially for flooring, wheel hubs, cooperage, agricultural implements and many other uses.
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