Herbs & Plants

Ulmus glabra

Botanical Name: Ulmus glabra
Family: Ulmaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Rosales
Genus: Ulmus
Subgenus:U. subg. Ulmus
Section:U. sect. Ulmus
Species: U. glabra

*Ulmus campestre. pro parte.
*Ulmus montana.
*Ulmus scabra.

Common Names: Wych Elm, Table-top Scotch Elm, Scotch Elm

Habitat: Ulmus glabra is native to Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, north and west Asia. It grows in the woods, hedges and by streams, commoner in the west and north.

Ulmus glabra is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a fast rate. Sometimes the tree reaches heights of 40 m, typically with a broad crown where open-grown, supported by a short bole < 2 m. diameter at breast height (DBH). Normally, root suckers are not seen; natural reproduction is by seed alone. The tree is notable for its very tough, supple young shoots, which are always without the corky ridges or ‘wings’ characteristic of many elms. The alternate leaves are deciduous, 6–17 cm long by 3–12 cm broad, usually obovate with an asymmetric base, the lobe often completely covering the short (<5 mm) petiole; the upper surface is rough. Leaves on juvenile or shade-grown shoots sometimes have three or more lobes near the apex. The perfect hermaphrodite flowers appear before the leaves in early spring, produced in clusters of 10–20; they are 4 mm across on 10 mm long stems, and being wind-pollinated, are apetalous. The fruit is a winged samara 20 mm long and 15 mm broad, with a single, round, 6 mm seed in the centre, maturing in late spring.

The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind. It is noted for attracting wildlife.


The wych elm is moderately shade-tolerant, but requires deep, rich soils as typically found along river valleys. The species is intolerant of acid soils and flooding, as it is of prolonged drought. Although rarely used as a street tree owing to its shape, it can be surprisingly tolerant of urban air pollution, constricted growing conditions, and severe pollarding.

As wych elm does not sucker from the roots, and any seedlings are often consumed by uncontrolled deer populations, regeneration is very restricted, limited to sprouts from the stumps of young trees. The resultant decline has been extreme, and the wych elm is now uncommon over much of its former range. It is best propagated from seed or by layering stooled stock plants, although softwood cuttings taken in early June will root fairly reliably under mist.

Wych elm was widely planted in Edinburgh in the 19th century as a park and avenue tree, and despite losses, it remains abundant there, regenerating through seedlings. It was introduced to New England in the 18th century, to Canada (as U. montana at the Dominion Arboretum, Ottawa) and Australia in the 19th century.

Edible Uses:
Leaves are eaten- raw or cooked. They can be a little bit bitter, especially if not very young, and have a mucilaginous texture. They make a nice addition to a mixed salad. Immature fruits, used just after they are formed, can be eaten raw. An aromatic, unusual flavour, leaving the mouth feeling fresh and the breath smelling pleasant. They contain about 34.4% protein, 28.2% fat, 17% carbohydrate, 5% ash. The fruit is about 2.5cm long. Inner bark – mucilaginous. No more details are given but inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread.

Medicinal Uses:
The inner bark is astringent, demulcent and mildly diuretic. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of diarrhoea, rheumatism, wounds, piles etc and is also used as a mouthwash in the treatment of ulcers. The inner bark is harvested from branches 3 – 4 years old and is dried for later use. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Occasional feelings of inadequacy’, ‘Despondency’ and ‘Exhaustion from over-striving for perfection’. A homeopathic remedy is made from the inner bark. It is used in the treatment of eczema.

Other Uses:
A fibre from the inner bark is used for mats and making ropes. Wood – very durable under water, fairly hard, elastic, withstands abrasion and salt water. Ulmus glabra wood is prized by craftsmen for its colouring. Used for water pipes, wheels, mallet heads, ships keels etc.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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