Open the Advanced Search

Small-leaved Elm

Ulmus minor

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ulmaceae (Elm)
Also in this family:
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 metres tall
Fields, gardens, hedgerows, parks, woodland.

Red, no petals
Dark pink or red flowers which hang down in tassles. Pollinated by the wind.
A conspicuous pale green notched disc which encases a single seed. Approximately 1cm in diameter.
Narrowly oval leaves which are variable but always smooth on their upper surfaces. The leaves measure between 5 and 15cm in length. As is typical of Elms, the leaf bases are asymmetrical. Double-serrated leaf margins. The leaves taper into a sudden point.
Other Names:
Common Elm, Dwarf Elm, European White Elm, Field Elm, Wych Elm.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Ulmus minor, also known as the European white elm or common elm, is a species of deciduous tree native to Europe and western Asia. It is a small to medium-sized tree that is known for its distinctive, vase-shaped canopy and its dark green, glossy leaves. Ulmus minor produces small, greenish-brown flowers in the spring, which give way to small, winged seeds in the fall. The tree is known for its strong wood, which was once used to make furniture, ships, and other products. Today, Ulmus minor is often grown as an ornamental tree in gardens and parks 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.


Small-leaved Elm (Ulmus minor) is a deciduous tree species belonging to the Ulmaceae family. It is also commonly known as the Dwarf Elm or Wych Elm, and it is native to Europe, western Asia and North Africa. The tree is known for its adaptability and resilience, making it a popular choice for urban landscapes, parks, and gardens.

One of the defining features of the Small-leaved Elm is its small, ovate-shaped leaves, which are typically around 2-7 cm in length. The leaves are a dull green color on the top and a paler green underneath, and they have a rough texture to the touch. The tree also produces small flowers that are inconspicuous and are not often noticed, and its fruit is a samara (a type of winged seed) that is typically around 1-2 cm in length.

The Small-leaved Elm is a hardy and adaptable tree that can grow in a variety of soils, including clay, sand, and loam. It is also resistant to drought and can tolerate exposure to salt, making it ideal for planting in coastal areas. The tree can grow up to 20 meters in height, although it is often smaller in cultivation, and it has a rounded or spreading canopy that provides ample shade.

One of the most notable qualities of the Small-leaved Elm is its resistance to Dutch Elm Disease, which is a fungal infection that has devastated elm populations across much of Europe and North America. The disease is spread by the elm bark beetle, which bores into the tree's trunk and branches, and it can cause the tree to die within just a few years of infection. The Small-leaved Elm, however, is one of the few species that is resistant to the disease, making it a valuable asset for urban landscapes and parks.

The wood of the Small-leaved Elm is also highly prized, and it has been used for centuries for a variety of purposes. The wood is hard, strong and durable, and it is often used for furniture, flooring, and boat building. The tree is also a popular choice for bonsai cultivation, and its resistance to Dutch Elm Disease makes it a suitable option for bonsai enthusiasts.

The Small-leaved Elm (Ulmus minor) is a versatile and resilient tree species that is well-suited to urban landscapes, parks, and gardens. With its small leaves, adaptability to a range of soils and conditions, and resistance to Dutch Elm Disease, it is a valuable asset for any landscape. Whether you're planting a single tree in your yard, or designing an urban park, the Small-leaved Elm is definitely a tree worth considering.

In addition to its ornamental and utilitarian value, the Small-leaved Elm also provides important habitat for wildlife. The tree is a host for several species of moths and butterflies, and its seeds and leaves are an important food source for many species of birds and small mammals. The tree's large canopy also provides shelter and shade for a wide range of wildlife, making it an important contributor to the overall biodiversity of an ecosystem.

In terms of care and maintenance, the Small-leaved Elm is a relatively low-maintenance tree. It is recommended to plant the tree in a location that is well-drained, and to avoid planting it in areas that are prone to standing water. It is also important to provide the tree with sufficient water during its establishment period, and to mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture. Pruning is not typically necessary for the Small-leaved Elm, but it may be necessary to remove any dead or damaged wood from time to time.

Despite its many positive qualities, the Small-leaved Elm is not without its challenges. The tree can be prone to pests and diseases, including elm leaf beetle, elm yellows, and powdery mildew. However, with proper care and monitoring, these issues can be effectively managed, and the tree can continue to thrive for many years to come.

The Small-leaved Elm is a tree species that offers a range of benefits and values, both aesthetically and ecologically. Whether you're looking for a tree to provide shade, habitat, or simply a beautiful addition to your landscape, the Small-leaved Elm is definitely a species worth considering. With its hardiness, adaptability, and resistance to Dutch Elm Disease, it is sure to provide many years of enjoyment and satisfaction.

Another interesting aspect of the Small-leaved Elm is its cultural and historical significance. The tree has been used for centuries for a variety of purposes, and it has played a role in many different cultures and civilizations. For example, in ancient Greece, the Small-leaved Elm was used to make shields and weapons, while in medieval England, the tree was often planted near monasteries and other religious sites.

In more recent times, the Small-leaved Elm has become an important symbol of resilience and hope. During World War II, the tree was widely planted in bombed-out areas of cities as part of the post-war rebuilding effort. The tree's ability to thrive in difficult conditions, and its resilience in the face of adversity, made it a popular choice for planting in these areas, and it remains a symbol of hope and renewal in many cities and towns to this day.

Another interesting fact about the Small-leaved Elm is its role in the field of genetics. The tree is one of the few species that has been extensively studied in terms of its genetics, and it has provided important insights into the evolution and diversification of the Ulmaceae family. Scientists have also used the Small-leaved Elm as a model species for the study of forest ecology and tree biology, and it has been the subject of many important research studies in these fields.

In conclusion, the Small-leaved Elm is not just a tree species, but also a cultural and historical icon with a rich and varied legacy. Whether you're interested in its ornamental value, its role in the ecosystem, or its cultural and historical significance, the Small-leaved Elm is a tree species that is sure to captivate and inspire you.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map