Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Ulmus americana


SPECIES: Ulmus americana
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Coladonato, Milo. 1992. Ulmus americana. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : ULMAME SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : ULAM COMMON NAMES : American elm white elm water elm soft elm Florida elm TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for American elm is Ulmus americana L. [36]. Recognized varieties include U. americana var. americana and U. americana var. floridana, which is restricted to the coastal plains from eastern North Carolina to central Florida [15,27]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Ulmus americana
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The typical variety of American elm (var. americana) is found throughout eastern North America [5]. Its range extends from southern Newfoundland westward through southern Quebec and Ontario, northwest through Manitoba into eastern Saskatchewan, then south on the upper floodplains and protected slopes of the Dakotas. It is found in the canyons and floodplains of northern and eastern Kansas and in eastern Oklahoma and central Texas. American elm is common along the Gulf Coast and east into central Florida [9,7,29,43]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood FRES18 Maple - beech - birch STATES : AL AR CT DE FL GA HI IL IN KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NE NH NJ NY NC ND OH OK PA RI SC SD TN TX VT VA WV WI MB NB NF ON PQ SK BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest K095 Great Lakes pine forest K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest K100 Oak - hickory forest K101 Elm - ash forest K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest SAF COVER TYPES : 16 Aspen 24 Hemlock - yellow birch 25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch 26 Sugar maple - basswood 28 Black cherry - maple 39 Black ash - American elm - red maple 42 Bur oak 46 Eastern redcedar 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 53 White oak 55 Northern red oak 60 Beech - sugar maple 62 Silver maple - American elm 63 Cottonwood 85 Slash pine - hardwood 91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak 92 Sweetgum - willow oak 93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash 94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm 95 Black willow 96 Overcup oak - water hickory 101 Baldcypress 102 Baldcypress - tupelo 103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Ulmus americana
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : The wood of American elm is coarse-grained, heavy, and strong. It lacks durability, warps, and splits badly in seasoning [44]. The wood is used in the manufacture of boxes, baskets, crates, barrels, furniture, agricultural implements, and caskets. Elm veneer is used for furniture and decorative panels [9,51]. American elm is also used for fuel wood [13]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Although American elm is not considered a preferred browse, deer, rabbits, and hares will occasionally browse the leaves and twigs [24,49]. The seeds are eaten by a number of small birds. The flowerbud, flower, and fruit are eaten by mice, squirrels, oppossum, ruffed grouse, northern bobwhite, and Hungarian partridge [5]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : American elm trees provide thermal cover and nesting sites for a variety of primary and secondary cavity nesters [26,30]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : American elm can be planted for erosion protection and as a windbreak [21,38]. Its shallow and widespreading roots make it fairly windfirm [8,56]. American elm can be propagated by cuttings, but the results have been variable. Doran [14] reports that cuttings taken in June were rooted with 94 percent success after treatment with indolebutyric acid but rooted poorly with no treatment. The propagation of root cuttings was ineffective for American elm in Ohio [6]. Leafbud cuttings are superior to soft-wood cuttings for propagating American elm [23]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Before the advent of Dutch elm disease, American elm was prized as a street ornamental in many cities in North America [55]. The inner bark of American elm was used in various decoctions by the Native Americans in the southeastern United States [17]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : American elm has suffered greatly since the introduction of Dutch elm disease from Europe around 1930. Since then the disease has spread over much of the United States [46,48]. The disease is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis ulmi. Spores of this fungus are carried by American (Hylurgopinus rufipes) and European bark beetles (Scolytus multistria) from diseased trees to healthy trees. The beetles breed only in dead, dying, or recently cut elm wood and winter as larvae under the bark. In the spring, adults emerge and fly a short distance (usually less than 500 feet [150 m]) to feed in the twig crothes or small branches in the upper parts of the living trees. As the beetles feed, the spores are introduced into the tree and the tree becomes diseased. After the spores have been introduced into the tree's vascular system, the xylem becomes plugged and a toxin is produced. The trees wilt on the small branches and eventually on the whole limbs [16,39,47]. A program for controlling Dutch elm disease has been described [47]. Most of the genetic research of elm has been concerned with the resistance of various species, varieties, races, and hybrids to Dutch elm disease or phloem necrosis. Natural hybridization in American elm is uncommon, although controlled crosses have been made with Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila). However, the success of these controlled crosses has been quite poor [2,29]. American elm is a tetraploid, having 28 chromosomes, while most other elms have 14 chromosomes, making it difficult to cross with other elms [35].


SPECIES: Ulmus americana
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : American elm is a deciduous, fast-growing, long-lived tree which may reach 175 to 200 years old with some as old as 300 years [5,27,53]. In dense forest stands, American elm may reach 100 to 200 feet (30-36 m) in height and 48 to 60 inches (122-152 cm) in d.b.h. Heights of 80 feet (24 m) are common on medium sites but on very wet or very dry soils, the species is often 40 to 60 feet (12-18 m) tall at maturity [5,44,54]. In the forest American elm often develops a clear bole 50 to 60 feet (15-18 m) in length. Open-grown trees fork 10 to 20 feet (3-6 m) from the ground with several erect limbs forming a wide, arching crown [29,56]. The alternate, double-toothed leaves are 2 to 5 inches (5-10 cm) long and 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.5 cm) wide. The dark gray bark is deeply furrowed (9,15). The perfect flowers are borne in dense clusters of three or four fascicles. The fruit is a samara consisting of a compressed nutlet surrounded by a membranous wing [7,29]. The root system of American elm varies according to soil moisture and texture. In heavy, wet soils the root system is widespreading, with most of the roots within 3 to 4 feet (1.0 - 1.2 m) of the surface. On drier soils, American elm develops a deep taproot [29]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerphyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed production and dissemination: American elm seed production may begin as early as age 15 but is seldom abundant before age 40. When mature, American elm is a prolific seed producer. Trees as old as 300 years have been reported to bear seed [5]. In closed stands, seed production is greatest in the exposed tops of trees. The winged seeds are light and readily disseminated by the wind. Although most seeds fall within 300 feet (90 m) of the parent tree, some may be carried 0.25 mile (0.4 km) or more. In riverbottom stands, the seeds may be carried by the water for miles. Cleaned, unwinged seeds average 70,900 per pound (156,000/kg) [28,46,53]. Seedling development: Germination in American elm is epigeal. Seeds usually germinate soon after they fall, although some seeds remain dormant until the following spring. Germination is usually 6 to 12 days but may extend over a period of 60 days. Dormancy may be overcome by stratification in sand for 60 days at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 deg C). The seeds germinate best with night temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 deg C) and day temperatures of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 deg C). The germination capacity averages about 65 percent [7,10,29,46]. Vegetative reproduction: American elm will reproduce fairly vigorously by stump sprouts from small trees. Large trees 150 to 250 years old seldom sprout after cutting [29]. Observations in undisturbed bottomlands of Minnesota suggest that replacement of American elm may be by root suckering [5]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : American elm is common on wet flats and bottomlands but is not restricted to these sites. In the southern bottomland regions, it commonly occurs on terraces and flats but not in deep swamps. At higher elevations in the Appalachians it is often limited to the vicinity of larger streams and rarely occurs at elevations above 2,000 feet (610 m). In the Lake States and Central States, it is found on plains and moraine hills as well as the bottomlands and swamp margins. Along the northeastern edge of its range, it is usually restricted to valleys along waterways except where it has been planted on the uplands [29,42,50]. American elm grows best on rich, well-drained loams. Growth is poor on dry sands and where the summer water table is constantly high. In Michigan, on loam and clay soils, growth is good when the summer water table drops 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3.0 m) below the surface. In the South, American elm is common on clay and silty-clay loams on bottomlands and terraces. Growth is medium on wetter sites and good on well-drained sites. In the arid western end of its range, American elm is restricted to silt or clay loams in river bottoms and terraces. American elm most commonly grows on soils of the orders Alfisols, Inceptisols, Mollisols, and Ultisols [5,29,41]. In addition to those species mentioned in SAF Cover Types, common associates of American elm include balsam fir (Abies balsamea), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), pin oak (Quercus palustris), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), white ash (Fraxinus americana), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), boxelder (Acer negundo), birch (Betula spp.), and hickory (Carya spp.) [4,19,43,50]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Faculative Seral Species. American elm is classed as intermediate in tolerance among eastern hardwoods [50]. It usually responds well to release. Once it becomes dominant in a mixed hardwood stand, it is seldom overtaken by the other species. It can persist for years as an intermediate but will be replaced by tolerant hardwoods such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum) or beech (Fagus grandifolia) if suppressed. Although American elm is not listed as a key species in the climax types on moist sites, it is usually one of the associated species [29,32]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : The time of flowering, seed ripening, and seed fall varies by about 100 days between the Gulf Coast and Canada. The flower buds swell early in February in the South and as late as May in Canada. The trees are in flower 2 to 3 weeks before the leaves unfold. The fruit ripens as the leaves unfold or soon afterward. The seed is dispersed as it ripens and seed fall is usually complete by the middle of March in the South and by the middle of June in the North [3,7,29].


SPECIES: Ulmus americana
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Fire rarely occurs in the moist areas where American elm typically grows. When fire does occur and conditions are dry, American elm greatly decreases following fire [12]. Wind- and water-dispersed seed are important in the survival of American elm following fire [28]. After being top-killed, young American elm will sprout from the base following fire [5]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker Secondary colonizer - on-site seed Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Ulmus americana
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : American elm is easily damaged by fire [11]. Low- and moderate-severity fires top-kill trees up to sapling size and will wound larger trees [29]. In a study of the fire effects on 2- to 8-year old American elm trees in the Missouri prairie, two spring fires of unreported severity in March and April caused dieback of 40 and 90 percent, respectively [33]. American elm suffered complete tissue death when the cambium was exposed to a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 deg C) for 20 minutes [31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Young American elm will sprout from the base following fire [1,25]. The Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provides information on postfire responses of several plant species, including American elm, that was not available when this species review was originally written. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Fire is usually not a major management consideration for American elm in the North, but in the southern bottomlands, fall and early spring fires are extremely damaging. Most fires will top-kill seedlings and saplings and wound larger trees, providing an entry point for heart-rot fungi [20,40].

References: Ulmus americana

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