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A number of elms are available that can resist the pathogen that causes the devastating Dutch elm disease. Since the disease first began mowing down American elms in the 1930s, scientists and breeders have been developing alternatives. Most of these trees are hybrids that cross various species of American, Asian and European elms. Some are selections of species that were observed to resist the disease. Not all these trees have the characteristic vase- or fountain-shaped arching branch structure of the beloved American elm, but some come close. Some also have resistance to other diseases and pests that trouble elms. As time goes on, better cultivars are developed, but some of the older ones may still be on the market.

  • Family (English) Elm
  • Family (botanic) Ulmaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early fall, late summer, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Arching, Oval, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast

Native geographic location and habitat:

Various crosses between American, European, and Asian elm species.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Oval, pointed leaves have tooth-within-tooth margins. Leaf is shorter on one side of center vein than on the other. Fall color may vary by cultivar.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Inconspicuous flowers in early spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Seed in small oval samara (seed case with wings for wind dispersal).

Plant care:

Generally, elm cultivars prefer sun. Adapt easily to extremes in soil pH, moisture and heat and wind.

Pests, diseases and tolerances: 

Older hybrids may be more susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Some may be susceptible to elm bark beetle, elm leaf beetles, elm yellows, elm leaf miner and verticillium wilt. All the cultivars listed here have been selected to be relatively resistant to Dutch elm disease, but they have varying resistance to other diseases and pests..

Accolade® (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica ‘Morton’):  

This is an Asian hybrid that grows 50 to 60 feet high and 30 to 40 feet wide with an upright to vase-shaped form.  Very good resistance to Dutch elm disease, elm yellows and elm leaf beetle. It has glossy green leaves and yellow fall color. The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows. Useful as street, parkway, or shade tree.

Commendation™ (Ulmus ‘Morton Stalwart’): 

This is a fast grower that can reach 60 feet high and 50 feet wide.  It grows upright but more oval than vase-shaped and is vigorous, robust, tough. It has large leaves, is extremely tolerant of drought and of cold. This tree has very good resistance to Dutch elm disease but moderate susceptibility to insect problems, notably elm leaf beetle, Japanese beetle and gypsy moth. Use along streets and in large yards. The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows.

Danada Charm™ (Ulmus ‘Morton Red Tip’):

This variety is a tall, vase-shaped tree that grows to 60 to 70 feet high and 50 to 60 feet wide with long arching limbs. It is a fast grower and very cold hardy. It has very good resistance to Dutch elm disease but is susceptible to elm leaf beetle. Emerging leaves are glossy red and turn dark green in summer and yellow in fall.  Use along streets and in large yards. The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows.

Emerald Sunshine® (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica ‘JFS-Bieberich’):

This small elm tree has a vase-shaped, spreading canopy, grows 35 feet high and 25 feet wide. It is an Asian hybrid and resistant to Dutch elm disease. Its large, thick, deeply corrugated leaves emerge bronze and turn glossy green and then yellow in fall. It is a fast grower that tolerates heat and drought.  Useful as street, parkway, utility, specimen or small shade tree.

Frontier (Ulmus ‘Frontier’):

 This elm is an upright to pyramidal medium-sized tree that grows 30 to 40 feet high and 20-30 feet wide with a stiff, rounded crown. It is a fast grower with good resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm yellows, moderate resistance to elm leaf beetle. It tolerates urban conditions, drought, poor soil and compaction. It has gray bark with orange markings, small leaves, and reddish-purple fall color. It is an US National Arboretum introduction. Use in smaller landscapes, and along city streets.

Homestead (Ulmus ‘Homestead’): 

This fast grower that can reach 55 feet high and 35 feet wide with a symmetrical, pyramidal to oval crown and arching branches. Its dark green foliage turns yellow in fall. USDA introduction. Excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm yellows, but can be susceptible to elm leaf beetle. Best used as a street tree.

Jefferson (Ulmus americana ‘Jefferson’): 

This variety has excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease, a vase-shaped habit, and is considered sterile.  This is a cultivar of the American elm.

New Harmony (Ulmus americana ‘New Harmony’):

This variety has excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease, a vase-shaped habit, and is a cultivar of the American elm.

New Horizon (Ulmus ‘New Horizon’):

Growing up to 40 feet high and 15 to 25 feet wide, this variety has slightly arching branches that give it a finer textured appearance than most elms. Its large dark green leaves have a rusty-red tint in fall. It has excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease, elm leaf miner and verticillium wilt. Useful as a street, parkway, or shade tree.  

Patriot (Ulmus ‘Patriot’):

This tree grows to at least 45 feet high and 25 feet wide with a vase shape. It has excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease, elm leaf beetles, and some resistance to elm yellows. It is a complex hybrid, that is fast-growing, vigorous, easily established and tolerant of urban conditions. Glossy green foliage turns to yellow in fall. US National Arboretum introduction. Useful as a street, parkway, or  shade tree.

Pioneer (Ulmus ‘Pioneer’):

This tree grows 50 to 60 feet high and 45 to 50 feet wide with a rounded canopy. It is an European hybrid with excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease but susceptible to elm leaf beetle. Its large dark green leaves turn to yellow fall color. Tolerant of urban conditions and useful as a street, parkway, or specimen shade tree.

Prairie Expedition® (Ulmus americana ‘Lewis & Clark’):

This variety has excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease and a vase-shaped habit.  This is a cultivar of the American elm.

Princeton (Ulmus americana ‘Princeton’):  

This tree has good resistance to Dutch elm disease and some resistance to elm leaf beetle.  It has a vase-shaped habit and fast growth.  This is a cultivar of American elm.

Prospector (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica ‘Prospector’):

Smaller than an American elm, this variety grows to 50 feet tall and 25 feet wide with a vase-shaped crown. It is a selection of Asian species with excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm leaf beetle. It is a fast grower so regular pruning is recommended to maintain vase shape. Its leaves emerge orange red and mature to green and turn to good yellow in the fall. US National Arboretum introduction. Useful as a street, parkway, or shade tree;.

Regal (Ulmus ‘Regal’):

Growing to 50 to 60 feet high and 50 to 60 feet wide, this variety has an oval to pyramidal form and an open crown. It is a fast grower with good Dutch elm disease resistance. A University of Wisconsin introduction. Use as a specimen or in groups for streets, parks, and large yards.

Triumph™ (Ulmus ‘Morton Glossy’):  

This variety grows to 50 to 60 feet high and 35 to 40 feet wide in an upright to oval form with branches that begin to arch as tree matures. It has very good resistance to Dutch elm disease, resistance to elm yellows and good resistance to elm leaf beetle. It can easily be transplanted, is quick to establish and regain rapid growth. It is adaptable to most soil types unless excessively wet. Its large, lustrous, dark green foliage in summer turns to yellow fall color. Use for home and commercial landscapes or parks or as a street tree.

Valley Forge (Ulmus americana ‘Valley Forge’):

This variety has excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease and a vase-shaped habit.  This is a cultivar of the American elm.

Vanguard™ (Ulmus ‘Morton Plainsman’):

This tree has waxy, lustrous leaves and a vigorous upright shape. It is a fast grower that can reach 50 feet high and 45 feet wide preferring sun and adapts easily to extremes in soil pH, moisture and heat and wind tolerance. It has good resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm leaf beetle. Useful as a street tree, parkway, or shade tree.  The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows.

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