Elm tree identification is a simple process as an elm tree’s three main fluctuating features are its leaves, seeds, and bark. So if you know which leaf, seed, or bark belongs to what type of elm tree of the Ulmaceae family, your problem will never be solved.

Elm Tree Identification

The elm trees are very famously found worldwide, but since the origin of a deadly disease that eats their sap away, a decline has been seen in their variety and availability.

In this article, we will take you, in detail, through the best way to identify six different types of elm trees according to their leaves, seeds, and bark.

How to Identify an Elm Tree Easily?

💥 Quick Answer

To identify an elm tree easily, you should examine the tree’s height and range, and check the double scattered leaves. In addition, you should also check the flowers that would grow in spring in a scattered way and their semi-flaky bark.

You can best perform elm tree identification by looking at the tree’s type of leaves, seeds, and even the bark of the tree. There are around 35 different varieties of elm trees in the USA alone, and they can all be differentiated on the basis of small differences in their appearance.

– Height

The Elm family of deciduous and somewhat semi-deciduous flowering plants that grow on tall, shady trees have a wide spread.

They can grow up to 100 feet while they can have an average spread of around 75 feet. The tree would grow on average three to six feet tall in a year, and in its life span, it would thrive as tall as 100 feet.

– Leaves

The elm trees have egg or oval-shaped leaves that may have single or double-serrated edges. These leaves may have flat or rough blades but the surface of the blades is massive. The leaves also greatly vary in size but generally, elm trees have long leaves.

Leaves of Elm Tree

Their color is almost always dark green. However, when the season is autumn, the leaves would change their color and turn more upon the months and when they become colder.

– Flowers

These trees have a variety of flowers, that would change from their features to their colors. They can range from a cluster of flowers to a single flower per branch.

The varieties of flowers depend highly upon the type of elm tree and also the weather conditions in which the tree is being grown.

– Shape

The elm trees are long trees with straight trunks and branches that start higher up the tree. The most definite shape that the trees make is that of an umbrella.

This causes the shade of the trees to be thick, and it is because they grow so tall. The shape of some variations of these trees might differ, but the general shape is that of an umbrella or an open-faced vase.

– Bark

Elm trees have thick barks with deep grooves and stripes that look like carvings. Sometimes the bark is flaky and can be broken down easily.

The bark also has varying shades of gray and brown with undertones of blue and red.

How To Identify Different Variations of Elm Trees?

To identify different variations of elm trees, you should check the ridges that would be found on their bark, and the texture that their leaves are made of. On another note, through the colors of their leaves and their flowers.

– American Elm Tree

You can identify American elm trees by looking for long and double-serrated and uneven ridges on their leaves, papery and winged seeds with a tough bark of grayish and brownish color with diamond-shaped fissures running through the entire bark’s length. Nonetheless, you can find some of these scattered all around the USA. These trees can grow up to 80 to 130 feet tall which is huge and spread up to 60 to 120 feet wide.

American Elm Tree

The American elms, also called water elms or white elms, are scientifically known as Ulmus Americana. This was a very common variety of trees found in the USA but with the increasing effect of Dutch elm disease, many of the American trees have lost their lives, which is why you should be keen on this issue.

The American elm tree has one of the most unique-looking leaves: the ridges on the leaves are uneven and doubly serrated. The veins are very visible and the blade is smooth. The leaves grow about five inches and are around 2.75 inches in their width.

The seeds of an American elm tree have wings and are inside a papery coating. The color of the seeds is close to off-white or European white. The seeds require water, sunlight, and moist soil to grow best.

The bark of the American elm tree has varying shades of brown and gray. Together they make a very unique color. The fissures on this tree are of diamond shape while the ridges are broad and thick.

– Florida Elm Tree

You can identify Florida elm trees by looking for slender and serrated leaves, with winged and papery husked seeds, and thick and flaky bark which is of a grayish and brownish color. These trees are huge in size, length, and width, so they can be distinguished easily.

The Florida elm trees do not grow as tall as other varieties of the same tree. They would grow about 60 to 80 feet tall, and each year they would start growing five to six feet tall.

Their scientific name is Ulmus americana var. floridana and they are one of the fastest-growing trees of the elm species. They closely relate to the American elm tree but other than their size they also differ a little in the look of their leaves, with different colors as well. Besides the leaves, the Florida elm tree does not have umbrella-like foliage like the American elm but a vase-shaped one.

The Florida elm tree has serrated edges on the leaves, which are much more slender, which is how they look quite more vibrant, even thought the veins are also not as defined. The seeds are the same with wings and a papery husk.

The seeds however germinate very quickly when given the right conditions to grow. The Florida elm tree bark and that of an American elm tree are much similar because both have a greyish-brownish bark that is thick and flaky.

– Chinese Elm Tree

You can identify the Chinese Elm tree by looking for smaller leaves with a leathery feel, with feathery winged seeds inside a papery husky, and a patchy and flaky bark that can be peeled off easily. The Chinese elm tree is one of the most unique among the elm tree family, because of its outer features.

Chinese Elm Tree

The Chinese elm tree or the Ulmus parvifolia, also known as the lace-back tree or the drake elms, is one of the smallest deciduous elm trees. These trees are used as ornaments or as shade trees only. It is one that would grow in a diverse shape and at the top it would get wide and scattered.

The best thing about these trees is that they are somewhat resistant to the Dutch elm disease, which easily wipes out other kinds of elm trees. This is why these trees are found very commonly.

The leaves of the Chinese elm trees have a leathery feel to them. They are smaller than the leaves of the rest of the species and have single-toothed margins. On another note, like the seeds of the American elm tree and the Florida elm tree, the seeds of the Chinese elm tree are also encapsulated in a papery husk and have feathery wings on the sides.

The bark of a Chinese elm tree might be its most unique feature, and this is due to how the bark is patchy and flaky and the branches are dispersed. The patches appear orange, whereas the rest of the bark is of varying shades of green and gray.

– Siberian Elm Tree

When you spot a Siberian elm, you can easily identify this tree by looking for long and wide leaves and blades that are very brightly colored, winged seeds that are inside a papery husk, and a gray-colored bark that is flaky with vertical running ridges.

The Siberian elm trees, Ulmus pumila, or Asiatic elms, are known as the dwarfs of the elm family because they grow only up to 50 feet tall maximum. These field elm trees are small and bushy with considerably dense foliage. They do not form a pointy end but have a round head. Because of their height, they may sometimes be confused with the Chinese elm trees as they too have a smaller height among the species.

The leaves of a Siberian elm tree are seven centimeters long and three centimeters wide. They are serrated and very brightly colored. They are green and have very smooth and shiny blades. These trees also have red flowers, it also has papery-winged seeds that can germinate very quickly. The Siberian elm tree seeds are a yellowish-white color.

The bark of a Siberian elm tree is unique. It is gray in its color, and it has some ridges running vertically. The bark is also very flaky and can be peeled off easily.

– Japanese Elm Tree

You can very easily tell that the following is a Japanese elm tree by looking for oblong-ovate-shaped leaves with margins, and short and flaky bark and the tree has a definite umbrella shape that spreads wide and full. This elm tree is one of the best specimens in the family.

Japanese Elm Tree

The Japanese elm trees are the tallest elm trees and also with the densest and full foliage. These trees have a very characteristic look because of their short bark and umbrella-like head. The bark is unique because it is smooth compared to all the other elms. It is, however, flaky and is a mixture of gray, brown, and white colors; it is also short and separates into many branches.

Their broad canopy makes them great for shade, so they are used as ornamental trees. Japanese elm trees are also very resistant to the Dutch elm disease which is why they can be found in huge numbers all around the USA.

The leaves of a Japanese elm tree are of an oblong-ovate shape with single-toothed margins. The leaves are smaller and have rounded bottoms with pointy tops with a beautiful green color. The veins are not as pronounced as the rest of the elm tree leaves. The seeds of a Japanese elm tree are exactly like the rest of them: papery husk with wings.

– Cherry Bark Elm Tree

You can identify a Cherry bark elm tree by its leaves which are always of fresh green color, with intricate veins and single ridges, the seeds are always inside a papery husk and the bark is very smooth to touch but flaky.

The cherry bark elm is known as theUlmus villosa, scientifically, but it is also commonly called the Marn elm and is a massive type of this tree and its variations. They are ones that have a huge head where the branches touch the ground, and it is hard to see the main stem or even get to it. These are popular trees for shade in the park and are also resistant to the Dutch elm disease.

The leaves of a cherry bark elm tree are very smooth and of fresh green color. They have very intricate and closely placed single-tooth ridges. These leaves are probably the longest among all the different types of elm tree leaves out there.

The seeds are winged with a papery husk. They also have a fast germination time and do not require much care. The bark of this specific elm tree is smooth but flaky, even though it resembles the bark of birch trees because they both have white patches on them.


1. Which Tree Closely Resembles the Elm Tree?

The tree that closely resembles an elm tree is a mature black walnut tree because they have many similarities when it comes to their characteristic features. They both have tall and broad growth with an umbrella-like leaf spread that gives a thick shadow.

Even though the two trees produce very different fruit and leaves, they look very similar in shape. They grow best in forests and also are commercially very well received. However, they can be easily differentiated on the basis of their leaves and seeds. Also, each of them has very different associated organisms.

2. What Other Seeds Resemble the Elm Tree Seeds?

The seeds that resemble closely to that of the elm tree are red maple, silver maple, Norway maple, Japanese maple, and tulip tree. The seeds of these species closely relate to one another and are known to have common helicopter seeds or the samara fruit.

They have a papery feel to them and have wing-like structures protruding out of the side of the seeds. The wing structures help distribute the seeds as the wind can make them fly and move from one place to another. These seeds can be used on their own for eating as nuts. Simply peel the papery layer off and they are ready to eat.

3. What Organisms Are Found on the Elm Tree?

The most common organisms found on an elm tree are aphids, mites, beetles, and caterpillars. Of course, these organisms are not as dangerous as some of the bacterial and viral strains found on the elm tree which are X. luteolin and Erwinia carotovora.

For nature to thrive and maintain its integrity, most organism associations are very well needed as they are part of a much larger food cycle. In most cases, the lives of other organisms depend upon them.

But in some cases, the associations can be deadly like bacterial and viral infections. They can cause diseases like slime flux and Dutch elm disease, which can literally wipe the tree in no time.


In this article, we talked about six different types of elm trees and different ways to identify them based on their leaves, seeds, and bark, but in case you missed anything here is a short review:

  • Elm trees can be identified by looking at the tree’s type of leaves, seeds, and bark, in addition to its length, shape, and also flowers.
  • Elm trees can grow up to 100 feet while they can have an average leaf and shadow spread of around 75 feet.
  • The Siberian elm trees are known as the dwarfs of the elm family because they grow only up to 50 feet tall.
  • Seeds of the elm trees have a papery husk and wings, so they can easily fly with the help of the wind.
  • The Japanese elm tree, cherry bark elm tree, and Chinese elm tree are all resistant to the deadly Dutch elm disease.

The elm trees belong to the genus Ulmus and the plant family Ulamceae, and all in all the trees are famous worldwide as they have some of the most easy-going growths and beautiful varieties of the plant world globally. We hope this was an informative and helpful read for you. Happy gardening!

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