Wych Elm tree identification

The Wych Elm Ulmus glabra is native to Britain and recognised by its very large leaves. It grows well in upland areas and is common in Scotland. It is susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease. Isolated clumps of old trees still survive in upland areas and there is a large population in Edinburgh. There are occasional survivors in the South.

Wych Elm tree identification – very large, asymmetric leaves, conspicuous flowers and winged seeds in spring.

wych elm tree in July

Wych Elm tree in July in full leaf

wych elm tree in spring

Wych Elm tree in April loaded with fruit before the leaves

asymmetric leaf
Wych Elm leaves are large. The upper leaf surface is very rough to the touch. The leaf is not the same size on either side of the central rib and is said to be asymmetric. All elm leaves are asymmetric and this is a sure way to identify elms.

The bark of old trees is ridged

wych elm flowers
A close-up of a cluster of flowers at the end of March. The flowers come out before the leaves. There are 8 to 10 flowers in each cluster. Each flower has male and female parts. The male dark red anthers stick out from the female ovary which can’t be seen in this photo. The anthers split open to release pollen onto the wind. There are usually 4 anthers per flower.
wych elm seeds
Each ovary develops into a fruit which is in the form of a winged seed. These are clustered together along the branches before the leaves come out at the end of April or early May. 
wych elm samara

The seeds of the Wych Elm are surrounded by a flat wing to help wind dispersion. A winged seed of this type is called a samara by botanists. Photo taken in mid April.

wych elm seeds June

Mature fruit in June when the tree is in full leaf

The buds are larger than other elms and stick out. The shoot zig-zags as a result of sympodial growth, where the terminal bud dies and growth is taken over by one of the lateral buds.

Buds near the tip are pointed. Buds further back are rounded flower buds. Photo taken at the end of January

The bud is off-set from the leaf scar

The flower buds are easily seen at the end of January.