Siberian Elm – Ulmus pumila

Siberian Elm – Ulmus pumila
Family Ulmaceae – Zelkova, Hackberry, Elm

Considered invasive in North America, Siberian elm grows to to 70 feet.

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Siberian Elm foliage

Siberian elm crown is open and rounded with slender, spreading branches. The leaves are small (< 2 in.) alternate, simple, singly-serrate, and dark-green in color. The bark is light-gray with irregular furrows. Siberian elm invades pastures, roadsides, and prairies throughout the Midwest and Great Plains regions of the United States.

The trees are very drought and cold resistant allowing it to grow in areas where other trees cannot. The abundant, wind-dispersed seeds allow this plant to spread rapidly, forming dense thickets that close open areas displacing native vegetation and reducing forage for wild animals and livestock. Siberian elm is native to northern Asia and was first introduced into America in the 1860s. It has been planted throughout the Midwest and Great Plains for windbreaks and lumber.

Siberian Elm
Siberian Elm is 37-years-old [2]

In North America, Ulmus pumila is an invasive species, spreading from Utah east to Kansas and north to Ontario. It is found in abundance along railroads and in abandoned lots and on disturbed ground. The gravel along railroad beds provides ideal conditions for its growth: well-drained, nutrient poor soil, and high light conditions, and these beds provide corridors which facilitate its spread. Owing to its high sunlight requirements, it seldom invades mature forests, and is primarily a problem in cities and open areas.

Fruit: Thin, wafer-like samara, nearly round, notched at top, 1/2 inch in diameter, initially pale green, later turning light brown when ripe in spring. Twig: Slender, slightly zigzag, grayish tinged with green; buds are quite small (1/8 inch), dark reddish-gray, round, flower buds are considerably larger.

From Flora of North America:
"Planted for quick-growing windbreaks, Ulmus pumila has weak wood, and its branches break easily in mature trees. It is easily distinguished from other North American elms by its singly serrate leaf margins. Ulmus pumila is similar to U . parvifolia Jacquin with its small, singly serrate leaves. Ulmus parvifolia , however, has smooth bark that sheds from tan to orange, and it flowers and sets fruit in the fall."

Siberian Elm Bark


  1. Flora of North America, Ulmus pumila
  2. Siberian Elm – Ulmus pumila, Morton Arboretum acc. 325-70*4, photos: Bruce J. Marlin
Tree Encyclopedia / North American Insects & Spiders is dedicated to providing scientific and educational resources for our users through use of large images and macro photographs of flora and fauna.

Family Ulmaceae – Zelkovas, Hackberries and Elms
There are about 200 species of trees and shrubs in Ulmaceae. Elms fell victim to Dutch Elm disease during the 1950s; until that time, they were the premier shade tree along the streets of our American towns and cities. The Morton Arboretum in past years has bred and marketed five new elm varieties resistant to Dutch elm disease.
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