Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Curious bark of the winged elm

Ulmus alata




This tree, with winged bark on its twigs, grows in a fence row along a low-lying pasture. Another of these trees grows near our mailbox, also in a fence row near a small creek.

I tried to identify them about a dozen years ago and I decided they must be winged elm. The leaves are smaller than most elms, but they have the rough texture, veining pattern, and general shape of elm leaves.

Birds eat elm seeds, and that may be the reason that the two ulmus alata in my personal experience are growing in fence rows. (The growth in rural fence rows usually reflects what birds have been eating.)

The various reference books and websites I've been looking at this evening don't agree at all about the height that winged elm can be expected to attain. Estimates range from 40 feet to 100 feet. I'm sure it depends on the location and the amount of sunlight the tree receives. (Winged elms like a sunny location.)

The two winged elms in my experience are nondescript, rather scrubby little trees about 15 to 20 feet tall. Their blooms and seeds are inconspicuous in early spring. In the summer, their leaves are usually bug-eaten, and in fall the foliage turns yellow.

The most interesting thing about the appearance of the winged elm is the wings on their twigs. The corky growth is most noticable in winter . When no leaves are present, the silhouette of the branches is irregular and rather fuzzy-looking.

Winged elm would be a risky choice as a landscape tree because it is susceptible to Dutch elm disease, powdery mildew, and other diseases, wilts, etc.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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