whats the scoop on Siberian elm

flameNovember 15, 2008

I got several acres and am thinking about planting some Siberian elm trees, I do need a tough very adaptable tree that can survive good. Some have said It Is invasive however on the flip side of that coin that qualities that make It invasive seem to be what would make It a good tree for my uses.

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Interesting name flame, hope there is never a flame war started because people see the name and subconsciously want to start one. But it comes down to this, where are you located and then people can offer you advice.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 3:15AM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

I love elm trees. But Siberian elms are to elm trees what lazy shiftless second cousins are to the family tree. They are so bad they give the rest of a good family a bad name.

Seriously. They are pretty weak limbed so they always wind up broken and mis-shapened after a while. They get transparent looking leaves so they look "sick" by half way through the summer. And, their one claim to fame, like the shiftless second cousin, is that they spawn their worthless offspring like crazy.

There are many good elms, even in the age of DED now available. I encourage you to go "elm" but not with the evil seed of the elm family.

PS, One disclaimer, there might some areas of the country where they are better than around here, but, I'm not aware of it if an area exists where they are worth having.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 6:16PM
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Seems like they do good around here. Better than having a red or white elm, since the siberian elm survive the DED. I mostly just use it as a filler tree here and there.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 9:51PM
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Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)

I live behind a windbreak of 50+ year old siberian elms, which are called chinese elms here (though I've often read that they really ARE NOT chinese elms, but since this is a common name, we can call it anything we want to!). Anyway, they are fast growing trees which are extremely resilient. Probably the 2nd most common tree around here after cottonwoods and not counting russian olives.

For the positive qualities, they survive tremendous dryness, don't seem to be affected by dutch elm disease, leaf out relatively early and go to bed later in the season, and can make an attractive tree with excellent shade. They are also extremely fast growing. In a windbreak, they may grow 70-80 feet tall. By themselves, they tend to grow into a rounded, spreading tree. They are extremely hardy and seem to laugh at hard winters.

They are the first tree to bloom here in March, then shed their billions of ripe seeds in early to mid May around the time the leaves are really coming out. These seeds will be germinating and starting to grow in the garden as the green beans are coming up in late May.

On the down side, they are prolific seed producers and the seedlings grow almost anywhere. You can pull or till them, cut them out while small, go after them with herbicides, or graze them with sheep. If you don't get them while small, you can saw the unwanted saplings off, but they will regrow if you don't continually cut down the regrowth or cut below the crown. They are also prone to getting some kind of little slug-like worm in mid summer that "scrapes" the leaves, leaving only a translucent membrane, though it really doesn't hurt the trees and doesn't hurt their appearance if you are more than just a few feet away. The trees also have a tendency to start oozing sap where a V is found in the trunk. Doesn't seem to hurt the tree, but it does look funny. Very small twigs tend to break off in high winds to be picked up. They really don't have much for fall color. Just kind of goes from green to a drab yellowish green, occasionally a bit more yellow or tinge of red on a FEW branches, then the leaves fall.

So, if you want a hardy, drouth tolerant, fast growing tree, this could be it. If you don't want to be eliminating billions of seedlings every year forever more in your garden or flowerbeds, this may not be your tree.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 2:45AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Ditto to what beeone says. I have them all around me (the MD forest service recommended planting them decades ago as an Amer elm replacement!). It's simply too invasive here, tho Slippery elm seedlings still outnumber Sib elm seedlings. And the Sib elm offspring, perhaps interbread w/Slippery elm, seem to have lost their resistance to the disease Elm Yellows, which is rampant here (the older, original Sib elms here still seem resistant to it).

The only (to me) acceptable situation to plant them is where they aren't invasive, or possibly in the dry high plains where few other trees can survive anyway.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 8:25AM
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They're regarded as a pretty trashy tree around here (western Montana)- pretty much as rcnaylor describes. They're fragile and messy. Twigs and seeds everywhere. Lately a lot of the mature ones have had to be removed.

Your mileage may vary- good luck!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 7:55AM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

The seedlings are absolutely annoying. I am not talking just about ecological invasiveness, the thing is they come up in the gardens, beside houses and in the cracks in concrete. The most annoying of all is that they come up inside of landscape shrubs and refuse to go. There are some in the middle of the roses now that I have been trying to kill for awhile. There is a trailer park a few miles away... there are Siberian elms obscuring the walls of the trailer houses, because they are growing right at the foundation, and the owners either don't care(!?) or for some reason cannot get rid of them. I think some are elderly.

This tree will grow and thrive for you. I am not alone in thinking, though, that this is about the ugliest tree in existence. This one tree, more than any other plant I can think of, is a pain. A pain to look at and a pain to deal with. Any other tree would be better, honestly. Any.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 4:47PM
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I think the seedling problem can be said about any elm in general. They all self seed pretty easy.
I agree, they aren't a good tree in town, just like other trees that break limbs easy such as silver maple. The main experience I have with siberian elms is seeing them at abandoned farmsteads. So they did a nice job outliving the people that planted them.

I guess a typical one could look like this that I come across, but most of the ones I've come across are probably 50 years or older.

Not sure how fledgeling can see them as such an ugly tree. Not many great natives in this part of the country. It actually looks better than alot of native trees, such as boxelder, dead red and white elm stags, and scrub bur oak.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 8:24PM
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To me, they look best in Winter when their shape and stature is quite reminiscent of Am. elm. But in summer, they reveal their half-dead crowns shot through with dead branches and branchlets. I've read that they are typically healthier in dry environments. I can definitely state that they are a royal P.I.T.A. to prune, what with all that dead wood in them.

One thing I DO like with Sib. elms are the woodchips produced when pruning or removing them. A nice reddish color.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 9:27PM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

dead red and white elm stags are ugly? ;)

I cannot comment on the other elms, as we do not have any of those ones here except American.

I see that tree as a full of dead limbs in the crown, a asymmetrical form and poor branching structure. This tree has that almost always. I don't know what the bur oaks in your area look like, but the ones here have none of those issues. But if you like it, then I am happy for you. I am just saying that where I live, in my opinion, this tree is the ugliest tree around. I even think Hackberry looks better, honestly.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 10:38PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I have 2 good-sized Siberian Elms on my lot, that somewhat defy the description on this thread. They have nice round healthy crowns, few dead branches, and not ONE seedling growing anywhere! Believe me if there were seedlings here I'd see them, because I've declared war on the numerous woody invasives growing on this lot and have gone to great lengths to ID and eradicate them (which is a work in progress). I've pulled zillions of seedlings from Norway maple, Oriental bittersweet, Glossy & Common Buckthorn, Burning bush, etc.

Is Ulmus pumila dioecious and these 2 trees could be males? Maybe it's not Ulmus pumila and actually something else? Based on all descriptions of this tree, I'd expect to find lots of seedlings, and have never found a single one. Which is what has saved these trees from the chopping block! :)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 2:29AM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

Oh, one addition. The speculation they might be better suited to the high dry treeless plains above... nah. That is where I am and our ice storms and wind just make for an ugly thing all too soon.

Tough they are. Indestructible unsightly advertisements saying "don't plant elms" to those who don't check a little deeper.

Sorry for being so anti-Siberian elm. Its just that they give a good tree a bad name everywhere where I have seen them.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 6:14AM
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Winged Elm and Cedar Elm are native north American trees that might fill the bill for elms. They both seem to be less affected by DED.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 9:31AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


over the last 20 years ... i have learned one thing in regard to plants that other warn me about ..




opps... didnt mean to yell ... lol

they said.. dont plant .. well.. fill in the blank ...

if in the next 25 years.. you want your acreage covered by crumby trees... go for it... but you have been warned ...

you can do so much better..

contact your local SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICT office [google your county name and SCD] ..

in spring.. at proper planting time.. they offer bulk plants... of small size at extremely reasonable prices.. like 25 white pine for $16, e.g. .... this is how you cover land.. and the whole point of the SCD is to do it the right way .... not with potentially invasive, fast growing.. fast to be damaged.. fast to die trees ...

in the alternative.. there are a few good mail order bulk sellers.. musser forests come to mind ... google it...

whether or not the tree you listed is 'good' ... you can do so much better ... frankly .. oaks are an investment for the centuries .... and i recommend them all the time ....

do the job right the first time.. and you wont regret it later ....

at the link below.. just reading the blurbs... there are at least 3 articles saying that they are invasive .... or otherwise problematic ...

YOU CAN DO BETTER.. good luck


ps: no matter what you do ... NEVER plant all of one kind ... diversity rules ...

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 10:08AM
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haha Ken, I would have to say that poplars are some of my favorite trees. Even Lombardy poplar has purpose in my scheme of things. But I agree, its all about diversity. Plant a variety of faster growing trees and slower growing trees.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 11:21AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

no doubt.. so that when the problems trees become big problems in 10 years... you can cut them down .. and still have the good ones there ....

in my case.. the only good thing about the poplars was that they gave the oaks time to grow like heck .... and now that they are gone.. i realize i didnt need the poplars at all .. they took up some space while they were all young.. but now that the oaks are 20 feet tall [from 6 foot] in 8 years ... i realize i planted about twice as many trees as i really needed ... thank god i didnt have to cut down GOOD trees. ...

the ONLY trick to disposable trees.. is to make sure you cut them down.. while they are within your capability to do so.. FOR FREE ... no use planting things that are going to cost you thousands of dollars to remove in a decade or two ....

and IKZ ... poplars are fine... AS LONG AS YOU UNDERSTAND THEIR LIMITATIONS ... when we have a newbie breeze through ... that person needs to understand that their are no miracle trees... those that claim to be miracles are basically VERY problematic over time ... cheap is probably not a good investment.. all the usual caveats ...

there is a time and a place for everything ... but finding out.. 20 years down the road.. that that miracle tree is the 7th biblical plague ... can be heart breaking...

TRUST ME ... i have learned by my mistakes...


    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 2:47PM
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