Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday's Trees- Winged Elm, Ulmus alata

The first time I saw a Winged Elm we were on our property in South Carolina and there were lots of small saplings sprouting up. Again it was our landscaper who told me about this tree. I have come a long way in the course of a year. It seems taking one tree at a time is the way for me to learn about trees.

This fast growing native tree is adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, zones 6- 9, part shade to part sun, drought tolerant, moderate salt tolerance, bottomland or terraces. The average height is about 45 feet with a similar spread. There have been some specimens reaching up to 100 feet tall. The growth pattern is that of an upright vase, spreading as it matures. The most distinctive feature of the Winged Elm is the corky wings that protrude along the stems. These wings vary from tree to tree.

The leaves are doubly serrated, elliptical, pinnate venation, and appear alternately along the stem. The margins between the nodes are small. The green leaves turn yellow in the fall, one website claims it to be showy color and another says it is dull. Eventually I will get a photo of the fall color and we can decide!

The flowers are not showy, appearing in the fall. It is a perfect flower, having both male and female reproductive structures. Seed germination is high and it has been known to invade open meadows.
Deer find the stems and leaves nutritious and succulent in the spring when other food is less available. Later in the season the leaves are less digestible.
Dutch Elm disease is a concern with this tree.  Other pest issues are scale, mites and powdery mildew.
Turns out I do not have a clear picture of the bark or the full sized tree from our lot. For a good look at the bark check out Vanderbilt- (lots of photos, good one with the bark)

Fun facts- The Creek Indian call this tree the Wahoo. Because it resists splitting, it is used in making high quality hockey sticks. Other uses for this hard wood include furniture, flooring, boxes and crates.
More resources-
NC State -short description
Duke- comparison of this elm with Slippery Elm and American Elm
LBJ Wildflower Center- distribution and host plant info
US Forestry Department- in conjunction with University of Florida. Line drawings, good info
Virginia Tech-brief description
US Forestry Department Silvics Manual- scientific information, very detailed
next week's tree---Pecan


  1. I don't think I've taken any pictures of this tree yet. Do you know of any in the area?

  2. Very interesting! I love the Indian name, Wahoo. Thanks for the information!

  3. janet, i remember fiddling with those "corky wings" when i was a child! they snapped off in a strangely satisfying way. lol. i doubt it was particularly good for the tree. i'm thrilled with your tree series, and doubly thrilled to be on your blogroll! thanks!

  4. Gotta love those wings. I've seen these in the wild and do like them. I think learning about trees one at a time is a wonderful way to learn. You'll be all set for SC.

  5. the corky wings really give the plant a distinctive character!! ~bangchik

  6. The corky wings fascinate me. Do they fall from the tree or remain on it and fly in the breeze? Just some thoughts on this winged elm.

  7. What a timely post! I've been trying to id my Elm tree! Now I'll check to see if it has any of these characteristics...Thank you! gail

  8. What a beautiful tree and how interesting the ways it is used. We grow some different Ulmus species here, but they do not look as pretty as this one.

  9. Evening Phillip, I am not sure if there are any around here. Our area is within the range map, so I imagine there may be.

    Hi Rosey, I love that name too..WAhoooooo

    Hi Daricia, fond childhood memories eh? Great! I am glad to have you on my blogroll.

    Hi Tina, Those wings are great aren't they? You know, one tree at a time is about all I can handle!

    Hi Bangchik, it does give it a distinctive character.

    Hi Mary Delle, They are part of the tree, somewhat corky in nature. As the tree ages more 'wings' contort and grow.

    Hi Gail, Hope this helped you make that ID. Between elms, beech and birch I need lots of help!!!

    Hi Noelle, Elm are all over the States, once I make an ID I realize there are so many right under my nose!

  10. Hi Janet~~ Nice tree but I'd be worried about the all-too-many seedlings. Perhaps I'm revealing my ignorance. Or paranoia. :)

  11. I'm learning lots here. I've never heard of this type of elm before.

  12. Janet girl ! You have taught this Canadian Chick something new about hockey sticks I had no idea about .. this tree is perfect now ? LOL

  13. Dear Janet, thanks so much for this tree ID! I think I have a baby one growing in my wilder area under the tall pines. It has those wings, unmistakeable, unless there are other trees that have them too? I will check the leaves against your photos. Your landscaper is just fabulous, knowing about the trees on your new property. I am so excited for you and your new place. :-)

  14. Can't wait to see what the fall color on this tree looks like.

  15. Janet, Send me a photo of your poking up aster and we'll see if we can id it! The flower size on Climbing Aster is about 1.5 inches to two inches. CL would be happy in either of your homes...old and soon to be new! gail

  16. Queen!
    Yes, I am so psyched for the MP show!

  17. We love our winged elm, its bark is a unique talking point!

    Happy WW

  18. Hi Grace, I thought of that, I am not sure about all-too-many seedlings. Will keep you posted.

    Hi Catherine, I hadn't either. Glad you are learning along with me.

    Hi Joy, I can't say for sure if it is ICE hockey sticks or FIELD hockey sticks...;-)

    Hi Frances, I don't think there are wings on other elms. There is a winged euonymus --Burning Bush. Not sure on others.

    Hi Racquel, will see about getting some fall photos of this...sometime.

    Hi Gail, thanks, I will. The one I have in the yard now isn't quite that big.

    Hi Rosey, I watched it...well most of it. Around 9 my eyes grew heavy....missed about 25 minutes. oops.

    Hi Dragonfly Lady, Glad to know you have one and love it.

  19. Winged Elm was one of the first native trees I learned after moving to the Southeastern U.S.

    Mr. Dan (who gave his homesite to the Georgia Southern Foundation, and which is now the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden) must have transplanted a young tree near his and MIss Catherine's house many years before I was part of establishing a new garden there.

    How much fun is that!



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