Elms are deciduous trees. The elm leaf has typical characteristics, whereby the difference between the individual elms is often difficult, since there are numerous hybrids in addition to the natural species.


Elms, also known as rustics or elves, are a plant genus (Ulmus) from the elm family (Ulmaceae). Of the approximately 40 species in Central Europe,

  • Weed (Ulmus glabra)
  • Flatterulme (Ulmus laevis)
  • Feldulme (Ulmus minor, Synonym: Ulmus carpinifolia)

native. In addition to these, the following elms are also commercially available, often as “varieties”:

  • Wredei (Ulmus x hollandica „Wredei“, Synonym: Ulmus minor „Wredei“)
  • Jaqueline Hillier (Ulmus “Jaqueline Hillier”, origin uncertain)

One of the rare representatives in domestic gardens and parks is the Chinese elm (Japanese elm, bot. Ulmus parvifolia).

Elm leaf characteristics

In relation to other deciduous trees, elms are easily identified by their leaves. Typical features are:

  • Arrangement: alternate and bilinear (only one elm leaf per node, alternately shifted left and right by exactly 180 degrees)
  • Division into petiole and leaf blade
  • Leaf shape: ovate to elliptical
  • Leaf margin: serrated (perforated)
  • leaf blade: pinnate (central midvein with secondary veins branching off)
  • Each lateral vein (secondary vein) ends in a “petal tooth”
  • autumn coloring

Native elm species


  • Leaf color: dull green (upper side), lighter underside
  • Length: 8 to 20 centimeters
  • petiole: very short, almost sessile
  • Upper side of leaf: very rough (bristle hairs)
  • Underside of leaf: fine, short hairs on leaf veins
  • Leaf margin: double serrate
  • Leaf base: asymmetrical leaf halves (not always clearly visible)
  • 13 to 20 pairs of nerves
  • yellow to brown autumn colour
Note: Since the leaves of the wych elm are often three-lobed, they are often confused with those of the hazelnut.


  • Leaf color: light dark green
  • Length: up to 10 centimeters
  • petiole: very short (2 millimeters), almost sessile
  • Leaf surface: soft, hardly rough
  • Underside of leaf: fine, grey-green hairs
  • Leaf margin: double serrate
  • Leaf base: strongly asymmetrical leaf halves
  • yellow autumn colour

field elm

  • Leaf color: light dark green (upper side), lower side lighter
  • Length: six to ten centimeters
  • Petiole: one to 1.5 centimeters
  • Upper side of leaf: no hairs (bare)
  • Underside of leaf: brownish tufts of hair in the nerve axils
  • Leaf margin: simply serrated
  • Leaf base: asymmetrical leaf halves (not always clearly visible)
  • 8 to 14 pairs of nerves
  • yellow autumn colour
Tip: The leaves are somewhat reminiscent of those of the hornbeam.

Elms of other origin


  • Leaf color: golden yellow to yellow-green
  • Length: five to eight centimeters
  • Leaf shape: broadly ovate, curly, wavy, twisted
  • petiole: short
  • Upper and lower side of leaf: somewhat rough
  • leaf margin: deeply doubly serrated
  • Leaf base: strongly asymmetrical leaf halves
Note: Because ‘Wredei’ is a mutation, the leaves can mutate back to the natural green of the elm.

„Jaqueline Hillier“

  • Leaf color: deep, shiny dark green (upper side), clearly lighter underside
  • Length: 2.5 to 3.5 centimeters
  • petiole: very short, almost sessile
  • Leaf upper and lower side: rough hairy
  • Leaf margin: double serrate
  • Leaf base: asymmetric leaf halves
  • intense golden yellow autumn colour
Note: Jaqueline Hillier’s leaves are very dense and look a bit like fern fronds.

Chinese elm (Japanese elm, bot. Ulmus parvifolia)

  • Leaf colour: dark green along the axis, getting lighter with increasing distance (upper side), underside clearly lighter
  • Length: an average of 4.5 centimeters
  • Leaf shape: narrowly elliptic, lanceolate, ovate or obovate (average 1.5 or 2.5 centimeters wide)
  • Petiole: very short (0.2 to 0.6 centimeters)
  • leaf surface: hairless along the central axis, increasing towards the edges
  • leaf margin: simply serrate, rarely double
  • leaf base: almost symmetrical leaf halves
  • 10 to 15 lateral pairs with further bifurcations, indented midrib
Note: The Chinese elm is often grown as a bonsai.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *