Life Cycle of an American Elm Tree


Considered a classic shade tree, American elm trees dominated the country's landscape until around the 1930s, when the arrival of Dutch elm disease began killing trees in record numbers. Over a 50-year span, approximately 100 million trees died; by the 1960s, nurseries and garden stores, for the most part, no longer carried American elms.

Life Span

  • Under optimal growing conditions, and without the threat of Dutch elm disease, American elm trees can live more than 100 years. According to "USA Today," during the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified types of elm trees that were resistant to the deadly fungal disease.


  • American elm trees feature leathery-feeling leaves that are rich green in the summer and bright yellow in the fall. Fast growing, the American elm has a distinctive Y shape and an arching form.

Growing Conditions

  • American elm trees grow well in both city and rural landscapes; environmental stresses such as smog do not seem to affect the tree's life cycle.


  • It's believed that Dutch elm disease arrived in the U.S. on wood imported from China; the name of the disease refers to the Dutch researchers who identified the fungus.

Time Frame

  • In January 2010, one of the oldest American elm trees in New England, thought to be about 240 years old, was cut down in Yarmouth, Maine. The tree's branches reached 110 feet skyward.

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  • Photo Credit arbre et petit ruisseau image by rachid amrous-spleen from feuilles d'orme image by rachid amrous-spleen from tree image by Arseni Timofeev from
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