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Siberian Elm

Ulmus pumila



Siberian elm is a large deciduous tree. It grows up to 70 feet in height and has a rounded crown of slender, spreading branches. Siberian elm closely resembles native elms such as American elm (Ulmus americana) and slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) except that the leaves are typically smaller than native elm leaves, and the leaf bases are typically symmetrical whereas the leaf bases of native elms tend to be unequal and the leaf margins doubly serrated. The leaf buds of Siberian elms are rounded and blunt, whereas native elm buds are more conical and pointed in shape. Flowering and seeding are typical of the elm family, with wind-pollinated flowers producing large amounts of papery, circular shaped samaras in early spring.



Northern China, eastern Siberia, Manchuria and Korea



Dry to mesic soils in open areas and on stream banks. It will establish itself wherever there is a soil disturbance and seed can be carried there by wind or water. Not highly tolerant of shade, but seedlings are fast growing and soon overtop slower growing species in open to partially shaded areas.


Ecological Threat

Siberian elm seedlings are very fast growing and competitive compared to native tree seedlings. This tree produces a huge amount of seeds in spring, and the aggressive growing seedlings soon shade the ground under them and take all space available to native tree species. This tree is very dangerous to riparian habitats where rare plant diversity is at great risk of invasion from this tough exotic. 


This tree occurs in 43 states and is considered invasive in 25 states. Early seed drop gives this tree the advantage of reaching bare soil early in the growing season and getting a jump on the native trees that seed later in the spring. Often forms thickets, taking up all available sunlight and shading out native plants.


Recommended Native Alternatives

  • American elm (Ulmus Americana)

  • American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

  • Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

These pages are designed to give the layperson a general overview of non-native invasive plants commonly found in the upper Hiwassee River watershed. For more comprehensive and technical information about a particular species, visit one of the web sites from our Links page.


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