Rot Resistant Waterproof Elm Wood

Elm trees are believed to have started in Asia several million years ago as the planet began to shift from a hot, humid tropical climate that encompassed the world to cold and temperate zones. As elm trees spread, they adapted to new growing conditions and many cultivars developed as a result. Some cultivars grew into magnificent elm forests with some trees reaching heights of 200 feet or more. Historical records show that a few American elm were 20 feet across in what is now Ohio.

A few of the more well-known cultivars are listed below:

  • American Elm trees (provide open field shade, firewood, timber and lumber)
  • Japanese Elm (specimen tree planted for showy fall colors)
  • Rock Elm Trees (grows in swamps and on riverbanks)
  • Camperdown (dwarf landscape tree)
  • Cherry Bark (unique specimen landscape tree)
  • Slippery Elm Trees (suitable for wetlands)
  • Cedar Elm (cultivar for its southernmost grow range)
  • David Elm (backyard shade tree of interest)
  • Siberian Elm (colder climate specimen tree for towns and cities)
  • Chinese Elm (urban shade tree)
  • English Elm Trees (open field shade for livestock, firewood)
  • European Elm (cityscape tree, timber and lumber)
  • Wych Elm (shade tree for colder climates)
  • Dutch Elm (specimen shade tree and firewood)

American Elm

American elm was not only an important timber tree, but it was also the favorite landscape tree, lining the city streets of New England towns and cities before the devastating effects of Dutch Elm Disease that spread across the Great Lake States and Provinces in the seventies. Thought to have been started by a beetle jumping ship in the St. Lawrence, it spread fast, only taking 20 years to kill just about every elm tree growing in Eastern North America.

As a landscape tree, its wide canopy provided shade in the heat of the summer. It was also beautiful to look at, often featured in paintings of the time, which showed ivy plants climbing their majestic trunks. Old growth American elm grew tall; clear of branches for 100 feet or more producing some of the best clear wood timber ever seen. American elm, also called pastoral elm, was often used as a stand-alone tree in fields to provide shade for livestock. Field elm would typically grow extremely wide, short trunk wood, which was very hard and dense. The twisty dense wood was used for heating in the winter on the farm; often an elm log on the fireplace would last through the night and late into the morning. A high BTU quotient along with an ability to produce premium clear wood timber and lumber makes American elm smart a choice for a commercial tree plantation.

Since the arrival of the blight, tree breeders have bred several disease resistant landscape elm, some of which may be suitable for use as a commercial timber source. Here are some examples of American Elm landscape trees:

  • 'Princeton': This cultivar of American Elm is known for its vigorous growth and excellent disease resistance. It has a strong central leader and a vase-shaped canopy, and can grow up to 80 feet tall.
  • Valley Forge': This hybrid of the American Elm and the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila) is highly resistant to Dutch elm disease and is a popular choice for urban landscapes. It has a dense, rounded canopy and can grow up to 50 feet tall.
  • 'New Harmony': This cultivar of American Elm is known for its upright, vase-shaped form and disease resistance. It has a strong central leader and can grow up to 50 feet tall.
  • Jefferson': This cultivar of American Elm is notable for its upright, columnar growth habit, which makes it a good choice for narrow spaces. It has good disease resistance and can grow up to 50 feet tall.
  • 'Princeton Sentry': This cultivar of American Elm is a narrower, more upright version of the 'Princeton' cultivar. It has excellent disease resistance and can grow up to 60 feet tall.
big backyard american elm tree

Fortunately, new disease resistant elm trees were developed and introduced in the 1980’s. Today, there is a concerted effort to reestablish elm as a commercial timber tree.

American Elm Tree Plantations

High density planting will force elm trees to grow tall, inhibiting their tendency to spread. Inhibiting branch spread, will grow trunk clear wood, the most valuable timber stock. Growing elm trees in a looping spiral will assist tree growth even further by increasing nutrient take up by the roots of each tree. Further, the earth energy magnification created by the spiral may ward off a potential reemergence of Dutch Elm Disease. In year 10, an elm tree seedling nursery can be created as an undergrowth in the plantation. Seedlings will grow tall and branch free reaching for the filtered light intermittently dispersed by the plantation canopy above.

The North American growing zone map below shows its range.

north american elm tree growing zone map

Elm Wood

In today’s age of environmentalism, elm would be a popular “organic” wood that may be used in ground without the need for harmful man-made chemical preservation. The commercial opportunity for the elm tree is in earth friendly wood products; fence posts, in ground structural posts and beams, wharfs, deck supports, docks, telephone poles, signposts, wood water tanks (like the thousands that populate the roofs of New York) and boats.

Elm wood is a dense, strong, and durable hardwood that has been prized for its attractive grain and resistance to decay. Here are some of the key characteristics and properties of elm wood:

  • Density and Strength: Elm wood is a dense hardwood with a high strength-to-weight ratio, making it a popular choice for furniture, flooring, and other applications where strength is important.
  • Grain: The grain of elm wood is typically straight, with a medium to coarse texture. The wood has an attractive, wavy pattern that can be highly prized in furniture and other decorative applications.
  • Durability and Resistance to Rot: Elm wood is highly resistant to rot and decay, which makes it an ideal choice for outdoor applications such as fencing, decking, and boat building. The wood's natural resistance to moisture also makes it a popular choice for kitchen utensils and cutting boards.
  • Workability: Elm wood is relatively easy to work with, and can be sawn, planed, and shaped with standard woodworking tools. The wood takes stain and finish well, and can be polished to a high luster.
  • Color: The color of elm wood can vary depending on the species, but is typically light to medium brown with reddish or yellowish undertones. The wood can also have a distinctive gray or greenish hue.
elm tree identification
bark of an elm tree beautiful elm wood

English Elm

The English Elm (Ulmus procera) is a deciduous tree native to Europe and western Asia, and is known for its tall stature, arching branches, and distinctive fan-shaped canopy. The tree has been widely planted throughout North America, where it has become naturalized in many areas.

English Elm trees can grow up to 100 feet tall, with a spread of 50 to 60 feet, and have a vase-like form. The bark of the tree is rough and deeply furrowed, with a grayish-brown color. The leaves are oval-shaped, with serrated edges, and a dark green color that turns yellow in the fall.

One of the distinctive features of the English Elm is its ability to regenerate from the roots, even after the tree has been cut down. This ability has made the tree a popular choice for hedgerows, windbreaks, and erosion control.

English Elm wood is highly valued for its attractive grain, durability, and resistance to splitting. It has been used for a variety of applications, including furniture, flooring, and boat building. However, like other elm species, the English Elm has been highly susceptible to Dutch elm disease, which has devastated populations of the tree in North America and Europe. In recent years, efforts have been made to breed disease-resistant cultivars of the tree, in order to preserve this important species.

English elm has distinct wood properties that separate it from its American cousin. Stronger than American elm, English elm was used for the working parts of machinery before the industrial revolution. Before the wide use of metal, English elm was used for axels, bearings, gears and pulleys for example. Today, English Elm is prized for flooring and fine furniture. It’s strong, durable and finishes well. Like Black Locust and Red Cedar, English elm has excellent water resistant properties; English elm was used to manufacture water pipes for hundreds of years. River craft submerged for centuries in the canals of the British Isles reveal preserved wood hulls made from English elm.

english elm tree growing in the british isles

Chinese Elm

Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) is a deciduous tree native to China, Korea, and Japan, and is widely planted as a landscape tree in many parts of the world. The tree is known for its graceful, arching branches, small leaves, and distinctive exfoliating bark.

Chinese Elm trees can grow up to 60 feet tall, with a spread of 50 to 70 feet, and have a vase-like form. The bark of the tree is mottled and exfoliating, with colors ranging from tan to grayish-green. The leaves are small, oval-shaped, and have serrated edges. The foliage of the tree is semi-evergreen, meaning that it may retain some leaves in mild winters.

One of the notable features of the Chinese Elm is its ability to tolerate a wide range of soil and environmental conditions. The tree is resistant to Dutch elm disease and other diseases that have devastated populations of other elm species. As a result, the Chinese Elm has become a popular choice for urban landscapes, where it is often used as a street tree or shade tree.

Chinese Elm wood is dense and hard, with a straight grain and fine texture. It is highly valued for its durability and resistance to splitting, and has been used for a variety of applications, including furniture, flooring, and carving. The wood of the tree is also prized by woodturners, who use it to create bowls, vases, and other decorative objects.

chinese elm lamdscape tree

Firewood Elm

Firewood elm, as the name suggests, is a known as the “firewood tree” in Japan where it originates. This Japanese elm grows profusely in the United States and if they were grown in large numbers could be the major tree supply for high BTU fuel sources like cord wood and wood pellets. Firewood elm adapts to most soils including low lying wetlands so it would be an excellent tree choice to reclaim marginal land. Curing this wood for one and a half seasons (beginning of summer year 1 to end of summer year 2) will significantly increase its heat quotient value.

cleaning firewood elm ready to cut for firewood

The best time to plant elm trees was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now!