American Elm (Ulmus americana)

American Elm (Ulmus americana)

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Common Name(s): American Elm, Soft Elm, Water Elm

Scientific Name: Ulmus americana

Distribution: Eastern to Midwest United States

Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 35 lbs/ft3 (560 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .47, .56

Janka Hardness: 830 lbf (3,690 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 11,800 lbf/in2 (81.4 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,340,000 lbf/in2 (9.24 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 5,520 lbf/in2 (38.1 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.2%, Tangential: 9.5%, Volumetric: 14.6%, T/R Ratio: 2.3

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is light to medium reddish brown. Paler sapwood is usually well defined.

Grain/Texture: Grain is interlocked (making it very resistant to splitting). With a somewhat coarse, uneven texture.

Endgrain: Ring-porous; large to very large earlywood pores in a continuous row one or two pores wide, small latewood pores in wavy bands; tyloses occasionally present in earlywood; growth rings distinct; parenchyma vasicentric and confluent; medium rays, spacing normal.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable; susceptible to insect attack. Living trees are susceptible to Dutch elm disease.

Workability: Can be a challenge to work because of interlocked grain, especially on quartersawn surfaces. Planing can cause tearout and/or fuzzy surfaces. Poor dimensional stability. Glues, stains, and finishes well. Responds well to steam bending, and holds nails and screws well.

 

Odor: Elm usually has a strong, unpleasant smell when green; though once dried has very little odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Elm  in the Ulmus genus has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Should be moderately priced, though availability from mature trees has been greatly diminished by Dutch elm disease.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Boxes, baskets, furniture, hockey sticks, veneer, wood pulp, and papermaking.

Comments: Once one of the largest and most prevalent of the North American elm species, preferred as an ideal shade tree for urban roadsides. American Elm is especially susceptible to Dutch elm disease, and was ravaged by the fungal disease in the second half of the twentieth century. Because the tree is fast growing and bears seeds at a young age, it has been able to continue in areas where older trees have died, though the newer elms also succumb to the disease at a relatively young age. Consequently, large and mature American Elms are  uncommon. Many disease-resistant cultivars and hybrids are being used to replace trees killed by Dutch elm disease.

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Scans/Pictures: Shown below is a piece of lumber from a small tree that was killed by Dutch elm disease. Being so young, there was very little heartwood formed yet, (the darker brown wood on the right half), with the majority of the wood being sapwood (light area on the left half of the scans).

American Elm (Ulmus americana)

American Elm (sanded)

American Elm (sealed)

American Elm (sealed)

American Elm (endgrain)

American Elm (endgrain)

American Elm (endgrain 10x)

American Elm (endgrain 10x)