Scotch elm

Orme de montagne

Ulmus glabra Huds.Ulmaceae (elm family)

Origin: Europe


Scotch elms are large trees with a broad, oval-shaped crown that often branches low on the trunk.

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Leaves are short-stalked and oval with a pointed tip and asymmetrical base.

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Flowers are small and inconspicuous.

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Fruit is an oval, light green, hairless, samara (winged fruit), with a notch at the tip.

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Scotch elms can be very large trees, reaching up to 40 m (131') with a broad oval crown.

The crown often starts to branch low on the trunk.

Young bark is smooth with light-coloured fissures.

Older bark is brownish-grey, furrowed with narrow ridges.

Twigs are reddish-brown, hairy, and slightly zig-zagged.

Buds are hairy and triangular, 5 - 7 mm (about 1/4") long.

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Leaves are oval, 8 - 16 cm (3" - 6") long, with a pointed tip often flanked on one or both sides by an enlarged tooth or "horn". The base is asymmetrical, the larger side often covering the short stalk.

Prominent straight veins, some of which are forked, terminate in the tips of the double teeth on the leaf edge. The upper leaf surface is very rough; the underside hairy.

Leaves have an alternate arrangement on the branch.

In fall, the leaves turn yellow or brown.

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Flowers are tiny, petalless, borne in small clusters.

Flowers open very early in Spring, before the leaves expand.

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Fruit is a one-seeded samara (winged fruit), 20 - 25 mm (3/4" - 1") long, borne on a short stalk. Fruits are flat, pale green, hairless, with a notch at the tip.

Fruits are borne in dense clusters.

Fruits turn brown and papery in summer, then drop to the ground, littering the seedwalk.

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Scotch elm is native to northern and central Europe and western Asia.

Derivation of names

The genus name Ulmus is derived from the Saxon word for elms. The species name glabra means smooth or hairless, referring to the tree's smooth bark and hairless fruit.

Scotch elm is also called wych elm (pronounced like 'witch') from an Old English word meaning pliant.


There are numerous cultivated varieties of Scotch elm, including the weeping varieties 'Horizontalis' (Tabletop elm) and 'Camperdownii' (Camperdown elm).

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Scotch-elm IN TORONTO

Scotch elm's place in Toronto's urban forest

Scotch elm can still be found planted in parks and as a street tree. However, like all elms, it is no longer on the city's planting list because of its susceptibility to Dutch elm disease.

Landscape value and potential for home use

Scotch elm is a very large tree that needs a lot of space to grow.

Pests and diseases: Dutch elm disease is a fungus transported by beetles that arrived in North America in the 1920's and by the 1960's had nearly decimated the native elm population. For more information see Natural Resources Canada factsheet.

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WHERE CAN I SEE Scotch-elm?

Find trees on Tree Tour maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

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