The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Elm

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Edition of 1879. See also Elm on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ELM, a tree of the natural order ulmaceæ, which embraces some of the noblest and most important species in the United States. All the plants belonging to this family have simple, rough, serrate, unequal-sided leaves; flowers small, in bunches on the side of the twigs; the fruit either a winged samara or a drupe. Three genera of ulmaceæ are found within the limits of the United States. The most conspicuous of these is ulmus, of which we especially notice the white or American elm (U. Americana, Linn.). No tree can surpass this in the beauty of its proportions. In old trees especially, from the wide-spreading, buttress-like roots to the wider spreading branches, the curvature is beautiful and graceful in the extreme. Situation seems, however, to give variety to the outline. In wet pastures or similar moist places, it sends up a tall, slender trunk, crowned with a few pendent limbs, and clothed nearly from the ground with a feathery investment of small branches, which are scarcely more than leafy bunches of twigs, and presents a most graceful and striking appearance.

AmCyc Elm - American Elm (parts).jpg

American Elm (Ulmus Americana).

The rapidity of its growth adapts it to artificial planting where shade is soon needed. Hardy to an unusual degree, it is a great favorite with the tree planter, and is found from Hudson bay to Georgia. The wood of the white elm is used for making hubs of wheels, and is preferred for that purpose to any other native wood. Yokes are made of it, and near the coast ship blocks are constructed of its timber. The white elm grows readily from seed, which should be sown as soon as ripe, and may be gathered in almost any desirable quantity from the ground under the trees, falling as early as June. The seeds should be very slightly covered, and the young plants will rise in a few weeks, when they should be watched and weeded, and in succeeding seasons should be thinned out and transplanted to insure well formed trees. In transplanting large and vigorous young specimens found where they have appeared spontaneously, it is necessary to secure as many of the fibrous roots as possible, and have them spread out in large and ample holes, well prepared with good soil; care must be taken not to have them too deeply covered.

AmCyc Elm - Slippery Elm.jpg

Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva).

The slippery or red elm (U. fulva, Mx.) is a much smaller tree, with larger and more beautiful foliage, and soft, downy, rusty-haired buds, whence the name sometimes applied of red elm. Its flowers are in lateral clusters; the samara is larger and with a broader border. The inner bark contains a great quantity of mucilage, of much value in medicine. Michaux considers its wood as superior to that of the white elm. The tree can be readily grafted upon the white elm, and if only for ornament it is well worthy of cultivation.

AmCyc Elm - American Elm (tree).jpg

American Elm (Ulmus Americana).

The corky white elm ( U. racemosa, Thomas) has its branches often beset with corky ridges; its leaves are similar to those of the white elm; its flowers are in racemes; its wood is tougher and finer grained. The wahoo or winged elm (U. alata, Mx.) is a small tree, seldom exceeding 30 feet in height, has a fine-grained, valuable wood, and is to be found in Virginia and southward.

AmCyc Elm - English Elm.jpg

English Elm (Ulmus campestris).

The English elm (U. campestris, Linn.) was early introduced into this country, and is a stately tree, contrasting finely with the American. Its branches, unlike that, tend upward, or else spread more horizontally, and its foliage is of a darker green and more pleasing to the eye.

AmCyc Elm - Wych Elm.jpg

Wych Elm (Ulmus montana).

The wych elm (U. montana, Bauhin) has been partially introduced; it is much cultivated in Scotland, and goes by the name of the Scotch elm. It resembles the slippery elm. — The nettle tree (celtis occidentalis, Linn.) has a trunk from 20 to 60 ft. high. Its leaves are obliquely lanceolate, acuminate, sharply serrate; its fruit is a sort of plum or drupe of a yellowish green color. It has several varieties, considered by some botanists as distinct species, but probably nothing more than forms of the above. They grow on the poorest and most arid soils, but flourish best in a rich and moist ground. Michaux says that the wood of the hackberry (C. crassifolia, Mx.) is fine-grained and compact, but not heavy. The planer tree (planera aquatica, Gmelin) has small leaves like those of elms; the flowers are borne in small axillary clusters; the fruit is nut-like. According to Michaux, it grows on wet banks in Kentucky and southward. He considers its wood as hard, strong, and proper for various purposes. It has not, however, been put to any use in this country, and is so little esteemed as to have received no popular name. It is worthy of attempts at cultivation northward, and can be readily propagated by grafting it upon the elm.