TREE OF THE MONTH – American Elm

The American elm (Ulmus americana) is an iconic species with its upright and gracefully arching limbs that for years were prized for creating tree covered tunnels over city streets and in neighborhoods. This native tree species is prized by city planners and arborists for its urban soil tolerance, fast growth, and ability to tolerate and process high volumes of storm water.

As a large canopy tree, the American elm’s range spreads across most of the Eastern U.S. and into Canada, and as far west as Texas and North Dakota. This species provides an early seed source for small mammals and migratory birds as well as habitat for cavity nesting bird species. The lumber from American elm is best known for its use in furniture, boxes, baskets and hockey sticks.

Dutch Elm Disease (DED) entered the United States on European shipments of unpeeled veneer logs and was first observed in Ohio in 1930. By 1976, only 34 million of the estimated 77 million elms present in urban locations remained, and far fewer are present today – making DED one of the most commonly known and destructive tree diseases in the world. (USDA USFS Northern Research Station).

Crown Hill Cemetery still holds a small set of true American elm species to enjoy. (The majority of specimens in Marion County succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease by the 1970s.) The most prominent specimen is on the Tree Tour; tree #31, in Section 2.

The Crown Hill Arboretum will be working to take part in planting and testing DED-resistant strains of American elm to recapture the beauty of this great Indiana native tree.