Friday, December 19, 2014

Siberian Elm

Siberian Elm
Ulmus pumila
For years I watched this tree grow at the edge of my driveway and couldn't figure out what it was.  I thought about cutting it down because it wasn't exactly where I wanted a tree, but I just had to wait until I knew what species it was.  I knew that eventually it would tell me.

It's been there about ten years and I couldn't find it in any field guides based on leaves/twigs/young bark. This year it finally flowered!  Of course I didn't notice the flowers, they were tiny like most other tree flowers, but I did notice the seeds one day.  Aha! Now I had a clue. They looked suspiciously like elm seeds, but this didn't look like any elm I've ever seen, pictures or in real life. So I got on the internet, that tool that is so full of information, real and imagined, and eventually tracked down the Siberian Elm.  Woohoo!

This was a new one for me, right in my own driveway.  This is pretty big news when you're trying to come up with a new plant picture every day!

The Siberian Elm is not native to North America ... you'll never guess where it originates. :-)  It is now considered invasive over much of the country. It's one of those plants that the USDA brought to the US after the Dustbowl to plant in shelter belts across the prairie to hold down the dust. It didn't do the best, so they worked on cultivars to make it less susceptible to diseases.  So now, one of those cultivars has invaded my driveway.  Yikes!

Siberian Elm is an enigma, a contradiction:
  • On one hand it has been cultivated to be planted widely, on the other it has been determined to be an invasive species.
  • On one hand it has been derided as a landscape tree, on the other it is sold in nurseries for landscaping.
  • On one hand the wood is considered by most to be weak and brittle, on the other it is considered by some to be a great, under-appreciated wood, if only handled correctly.
It's hard to know what to think about this tree.  Maybe I just won't think about it.

The leaves are much smaller than American Elm

The seeds look like American Elm seeds

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