Elm trees are not rare, you can easily spot one, as it is a very popular street tree. Even though they are easy to spot, you may not be able to delineate between the different species of elm, because there are more than 30 species of this tree, which lie in the genus Ulmus. They are deciduous trees with serrate leaves.
Man has cherished the company of the elm trees for a very long time. A large number of elms succumbed to the Dutch elm disease, and this led to the decline in the elm population. Few of the prominent species of elm are American elm, Siberian elm, Slippery elm, and Rock Elm.
Cultivation and Uses of Elm Trees
The elms are landscape trees, they are inherently sturdy and most of the species can tolerate rough weather and soil conditions, this attribute is a major cause of their popularity. The elm is hermaphrodite, and they can be cultivated by planting seeds, or by the methods of vegetative propagation.
The elms are broadly classified into hard elms and soft elms depending on their hardness. Different species of elm are used for different purposes, the uses of the elm tree can be stated as follows:
The Ornamental Appeal
This is one of the prime uses of the elm tree. Various species of the elm are used to beautify the surroundings, and to provide shade. One of the best examples of elm used for decorative reasons, is the American elm, which can easily adapt to the different climatic conditions, and is tolerant to winds, and requires minimum pruning.
Its features made it one of the widely planted trees in North America. One of the species of elm, the Chinese elm, are probably the best choice for bonsai tree enthusiasts. Many cultivars of elm add to the scenic beauty of several places, all over the globe.
Elm wood is used to make a wide array of products, ranging from baskets to coffins. The elm wood offer resistance to splitting, this is due to the fact that the grains in the elm wood interlock. In addition to this attribute, the pliability of their wood, adds to their appeal. A major application of the elm wood is to make the keels of a ship.
The Slippery elm is officinal. They have been used to treat ailments since ages. The Slippery elm can be used as a demulcent, and an antitussive. The fresh inner bark can be used to make tea, which acts as a laxative.
Their mucilage can be used to treat gastrointestinal disturbances. The poultice of the bark of Slippery elm can also be applied as an antiseptic. The Common elm, Ulmus campestris, also has medicinal properties, which are quite similar to the Slippery elm.
Blast From the Past
- Elms are believed to come into existence, 40 million years ago!
- Gunshot wound were treated with Slippery elm bark poultice during the American Revolution.
- It is believed that, in 1812, the principal food of the famine affected people of Norway, was the boiled bark of the elm trees.
- It is said that the Native Americans discovered that ointment can be made from the inner bark of the Slippery elm.
Apart from these uses, the leaves of the elm tree can be used as fodder for the livestock. Their ability to sustain and adapt easily to climate changes, makes the cultivation of the elm trees easier, when compared to other ornamental trees.
The elm species that are resistant to the Dutch elm disease should be identified, and they should be hybridized with the species prone to this disease. Measures should be taken to protect the existing elm trees from deforestation.