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Cornish Elm

Ulmus minor cornubiensis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ulmaceae (Elm)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
27 metres tall
Gardens, seaside, woodland.

Red, no petals
15 to 20 short-stalked flowers per cluster.
The fruit (which rarely ripen) are called 'samarae' and they are flattened discs in which a seed is enclosed.
Small, dark green, oval, toothed leaves with an asymmetrical base, 6 cm long and 3.5cm wide. The leaves alternate along the branches.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Ulmus minor 'Cornubiensis' is a cultivar of the European white elm (Ulmus minor). It is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that is native to Europe and western Asia. 'Cornubiensis' is known for its upright, oval-shaped canopy and its dark green, glossy leaves. The tree produces small, greenish-brown flowers in the spring, which give way to small, winged seeds in the fall. Ulmus minor 'Cornubiensis' is a popular ornamental tree due to its attractive form and beautiful autumn foliage. It is generally easy to care for and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, making it a good choice for gardeners with varying levels of experience.


Cornish Elm, also known as Ulmus minor cornubiensis, is a unique species of elm tree native to the southwestern region of England, specifically Cornwall. This tree is considered one of the rarest and most threatened species of elm in the world and is believed to have survived for centuries due to its isolated location in the South West of England.

The Cornish Elm is known for its distinctive twisted and contorted trunk, which often features multiple branches and gnarled knots. The bark is rough and furrowed and can range in color from light grey to dark brown. The tree's leaves are small and oval in shape with a glossy dark green appearance and serrated edges. They turn a golden yellow color in the autumn months before they fall from the tree.

This species of elm is also known for its hardiness, with the ability to withstand harsh weather conditions such as high winds and heavy rainfall. This is due in part to its deep root system, which helps anchor the tree and provide stability.

One of the most interesting facts about the Cornish Elm is its resilience to Dutch Elm Disease (DED), a fungal infection that has decimated elm populations around the world. The species is thought to have developed a natural resistance to the disease, which has allowed it to thrive in its isolated location in the South West of England.

Despite its hardiness and resilience, the Cornish Elm is still considered a threatened species, with only a limited number of trees remaining in the wild. Conservation efforts are underway to protect and preserve this unique species, including the propagation of new trees from cuttings taken from surviving specimens.

The Cornish Elm is a unique and fascinating species of elm tree that is not only hardy and resilient but also a true symbol of the beauty and diversity of England's natural environment.

In addition to its natural beauty, the Cornish Elm also has a rich cultural and historical significance. For centuries, the twisted and contorted branches of the tree have inspired local folklore and legends, with many stories featuring the tree as a symbol of mystery and magic.

The wood from the Cornish Elm has also been used for centuries in local woodworking and carpentry. Due to its strength and durability, it was commonly used for the construction of houses, fences, and other structures, as well as for the production of furniture and other household items.

Today, the Cornish Elm remains a source of inspiration for artists and craftsmen, who continue to use the wood for their work. Its unique characteristics, such as its twisted and contorted trunk, make it a sought-after material for carving, woodturning, and other forms of wood art.

In terms of horticulture, the Cornish Elm is a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers due to its unique appearance and hardiness. It is commonly used as a specimen tree, where its twisted and contorted trunk can be appreciated and admired. It is also an ideal choice for parks and other public spaces, where its ability to withstand harsh weather conditions makes it an ideal choice for landscaping.

The Cornish Elm is much more than just a unique and beautiful species of tree. It is a true symbol of the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historical significance of the South West of England. With ongoing conservation efforts, we can ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to appreciate and admire this magnificent species for many years to come.

Aside from its aesthetic and cultural significance, the Cornish Elm also has ecological importance. As a native species, it provides a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. The tree's leaves provide food for a range of species, while its branches offer shelter and nesting sites for birds.

The Cornish Elm is also an important part of the region's ecosystem, playing a role in maintaining the local balance of nature. By providing a habitat for wildlife, it helps to support the local food chain and contributes to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Moreover, the Cornish Elm is an important part of the region's landscape. Its twisted and contorted trunk and gnarled branches provide a distinctive and memorable feature in the landscape, enhancing the natural beauty of the region. It also serves as a historical marker, reminding us of the past and the important role that trees have played in shaping the local landscape.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in using the Cornish Elm for reforestation and woodland creation. Its ability to withstand harsh weather conditions and resist Dutch Elm Disease makes it an ideal choice for planting in areas where other elm species may not thrive. By planting new Cornish Elm trees, we can help to restore degraded landscapes and support the local ecosystem.

In conclusion, the Cornish Elm is much more than just a unique and beautiful species of tree. It is a critical part of the region's ecosystem and landscape, playing a vital role in supporting wildlife, maintaining the balance of nature, and enhancing the local environment. By protecting and preserving this threatened species, we can ensure that it will continue to play an important role in the region for many years to come.