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Smooth-leaved Elm

Ulmus minor subsp. minor
Smooth-leafed Elm at East Coker, Somerset, 2008
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Ulmaceae
Genus: Ulmus
Species: U. minor
Subspecies: U. minor subsp. minor
Trinomial name
Ulmus minor subsp. minor
  • Ulmus campestris var. laevis Spach, Planch.
  • Ulmus campestris var. glabra Hartig, Planch., Aschers. & Graebn.
  • Ulmus carpinifolia Gled.
  • Ulmus foliaceae Gilibert, Sarg.
  • Ulmus glabra (not Huds.), Ley, Mill., Smith, Loudon, Rchb., Wilkomm, C. K. Schneid.
  • Ulmus micrantha Kitt.
  • Ulmus microphylla Mill.
  • Ulmus nitens Moench
  • Ulmus sparsa Dumrt.

Ulmus minor subsp. minor Richens, the Smooth-leaved Elm, Narrow-leafed Elm or East Anglian Elm, is a subspecies of the Field Elm native to southern Europe and Asia Minor including Iran.

The name Ulmus minor subsp. minor was used by R. H. Richens [1] for Field Elm that was not English Elm, Cornish Elm, Lock Elm or Guernsey Elm. Many publications, however, continue to use plain Ulmus minor for Richens's Ulmus minor subsp. minor.


The Smooth-leaved Elm is a deciduous tree that can grow to 35 m. Its Latin synonym carpinifolia alludes to the superficial similarity of the leaves to those of Hornbeam Carpinus sp., while the common names contrast the smooth upper surface and narrowness of the leaves with those of the Wych Elm, which are rough and broad.[2][3] The apetalous perfect wind-pollinated flowers, and fruit (samarae) are very similar to those of the species.

Pests and diseases

Although the Smooth-leafed Elm is generally susceptible to Dutch elm disease, it is genetically a highly variable tree and it is possible some specimens survive in the UK owing to an innately high level of resistance (see Cultivation). Research currently (2009) in hand by Cemagref at Le Pepiniére forestiére de l’Etat, Guémené-Penfao, France, should confirm this. However, all Smooth-leafed Elm varieties are believed to have been introduced into Britain from central and southern Europe during the Bronze Age,[4] and some, being beyond their natural climates and environments, may be growing slowly and thus producing smaller springwood vessels restrictive to the Ophiostoma fungus. Good performance in the field may also be owing to resistance to bark beetle feeding or breeding. Moreover, several types of this subspecies also have very pendulous twigs when mature, a factor which could also make them unattractive to foraging Scolytus beetles, which are disinclined to invert themselves. [5] Of over twenty mature elms of various species, including hybrids and cultivars, in the elm collection of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1990, only four specimens survive in 2012: two of them are U. minor subsp. minor types with pendulous twigs (the other two are Ulmus glabra 'Exoniensis' and Ulmus pumila).

The subspecies has a moderate to high susceptibility to the elm leaf beetle Xanthogaleruca luteola [4], and a moderate susceptibility to Elm Yellows.[6]


Many mature specimens still survive in England, notably in East Anglia.[7][8] Here, the elms on the isolated Dengie peninsular in Essex, still thriving in the 1980s when Professor Oliver Rackham made his study,[9] continue to fare better than most. The Woodland Trust currently lists (2012) some 120 "ancient" smooth-leaved elms in England and Wales.[10] As the tree suckers readily, its genetic resources are not considered endangered.[11]

Narrow-leaved elm was occasionally planted as an ornamental urban tree. Among mature survivors in city parks in the U.K. (2012) are six fine specimens in Leith Links, Edinburgh.

Clones of mature survivors in Essex believed, but not scientifically proven, to have some innate resistance to Dutch Elm Disease, are now available commercially, are classified as Ulmus minor.In the early 1990s, Paul King of King & Co. nursery took and potted cuttings from a number of mature elms that had survived Dutch Elm Disease. Over the next decade, as the original trees were still healthy, they were propagated by micropropagation.[6]

During the 1950s and 60s Richard Hook Richens of the Commonwealth Bureau of Plant Breeding and Genetics conducted extensive research on Ulmus in England and wrote a number of papers on the subject. One such, 'Studies on Elms, Chapter VII: Essex Elms', is particularly pertinent. Richens took samples of elm populations in virtually every parish of Essex, noting biometrics such as width and length of leaf, teeth size and number. [4]

Notable trees

The largest recorded tree in the [7]

The largest known surviving trees are at East Coker, Somerset (30 m high, 95 cm d.b.h.), Termitts Farm near Hatfield Peverel, Essex (25 m high, 145 d.b.h.), Scrub Wood near Little Baddow, Essex (30 m high), and Melchbourne, Bedfordshire, (147 cm d.b.h.).[15] A large old coppiced U. minor subsp. minor, with an 18-foot girth at coppice-level, stands [2012] at the edge of Sturt Copse beside the Roman villa at North Leigh, Oxfordshire. It retains its dense canopy of dark green leaves late into autumn, making it stand out against the yellowing wych elms in the area.



The tree's natural range in eastern England overlaps with that of Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra), the two species hybridizing to produce elms of the Ulmus × hollandica type. U. minor subsp. minor is believed to have hybridized also with Plot's Elm (Ulmus minor var. plotii) to create Ulmus × viminalis.


North America

  • New York, acc. nos. 350001, X02487 (as U. carpinifolia).
  • Ohio. 3 trees, listed as U. carpinifolia, no acc. details available.
  • Dominion Arboretum, Ottawa, Canada. Listed as U. carpinifolia. No acc. details available.



North America

None known.


  • Eggleston Hall Gardens, [11]
  • Firecrest Tree & Shrub Nursery, [12]
  • Trees & Hedges, [13]
  • King & Co, The Tree Nursery, Rayne, Essex [14]


  • Established Tree Planters Pty. Ltd., Wandin, Victoria, Australia. [15], as U. carpinifolia.


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