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The White Elm


Ulmus Americana, Linn.

The white or American elm is widely known as a tall, graceful wide-spreading tree, usually of symmetrical, vase shape, with slender limbs and drooping twigs. (See illustration, page 215.) It has the rough furrowed bark characteristic of the genus, dark or light gray, with paler branches and red-brown twigs. The leaves are alternate, two to six inches long, broadest near the abruptly pointed apex. Distinctly one-sided at the tapering base, the leaves have a fashion of arranging themselves in a flat spray so as to present almost a con tinuous leaf area to the sun. One spray overlaps another, and leaves varying in size fit in to fill every little corner to which sunlight comes. This "leaf mosaic" is not con fined to elms alone. It is especially noticeable on the southern border of any dense wood.

Winter offers the best opportunity for the study of tree forms. Our common elm shows at least five different patterns. The first is the "vase form," the commonest and most beautiful. This is best realized by old trees which have had plenty of room. In it the branches spread gradually upward at first but at a considerable height sweep boldly out forming a broad, rounded, or flattened head. Second is the "plume form," in which two or three main limbs rise to a great height before branching, and then break into feathery spray. Trees crowded in woods are likely to take this form. Third, the "oak tree form" shows a horizontal habit of branching, and an angularity of limbs usually more noticeable among oaks, Fourth, the "weeping willow form," where trees have short trunks, from which the branches curve rapidly outward and end in long, drooping branchlets. Fifth is the "feathered elm," marked by a fringe of short twigs which outline the trunk and limbs. This "feathering" is caused by the late development of latent buds. It may occur in any of the tree types just mentioned, but it is more noticeable in individuals of the plume form.

The American elm is very familiar for it grows every where east of the Rocky Mountains. Not to know this

tree is a mark of indifference and ignorance. No village of any pride but plants it freely as a street tree. It is hardy and cheerful, reflecting the indomitable spirit of the pioneer, whom it accompanied by seed and sapling from the Eastern states into the treeless territories of the Middle West. With him the tree seized the land and made it yield a living. Elms, which have outlived the cottonwoods and willows, are not so large yet as the patriarchal trees in old New-England villages, yet time alone is needed to match, in the valley of the Missouri, the elms in the valley of the Connecticut.

I think, with due appreciation of its summer luxuriance of foliage, and the grace and strength of the elm's frame work in winter, that the moment of greatest charm in the life of a roadside elm comes in the first warm days of late March. The brown buds on the sides of the twigs are swelling and a flush of purple overspreads the tree, while snow still covers the ground. A tremendous "fall of leaves" ensues, for the tiny bud scales that enclose the elm flowers are but leaves in miniature. The elms are in blossom! Each flower of each cluster has a calyx with scalloped edges, and a fringe of four to nine stamens hang ing far out and surrounding the central solitary ovary. The color is in the yellow anthers and the dark red calyx lobes.

Speedily, the stamens shrivel and pale green pendants, which are the seeds, cluster upon the twigs. Winged for flight, these ripen and are scattered before the leaves are fairly open, and the growth of the season's shoots begins. Only the pussy willow, the quaking asp, and the earliest maples bloom as early as the elm. How much they have missed, who never saw an elm tree in blossom! The hubs of the "one-hoss shay" were of "ellum," its interlacing fibres peculiarly fitting this wood for indes tructibility. Saddle trees, boat timbers, cooperage, and flooring employ it in quantities. It is also used for flumes and piles, for it resists decay on exposure to water.

tree, leaves, trees, elms and twigs