We have been using the elm tree for thousands of years since the first farmers found them in ancient forests.
In western Europe, farmers used elm leaves and branches as cattle feed. Fisherman traded for elm leaves to boil and eat in times of scarcity.
Romans used living elms to support their grapevines - a practice called "marrying the vine to the elm." They also selectively bred elms producing many of the species we
see today throughout their former Empire.
In North America, the Iroquois used the bark of elms to make canoes, rope, utensils, and roofing for their homes. The Ainu, native people of Japan, used elm bark for clothing.
Until recently, elms were the predominant shade tree in North America.
Elms, like other shade trees, are nature’s air conditioners. They help to cool not just by providing shade but by the transpiration of water from their leaves. In fact, the cooling effect of
one urban elm tree is equivalent to five air conditioning units.
And like all trees, elms are a natural air purifier converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.
The hardy elm trees readily endures the severe winters of the US Midwest and the Canadian Prairies.
Shelterbelts of elm trees provide shade for livestock and protect farms from biting winds and storms.
Because their wood is particularly tough, farmers often left elms standing when clearing fields. To this day, you can see solitary elms in the middle of large open fields.
The tough cross-grained wood of the elm tree is highly resistant to splitting. It is used to make baskets, furniture, and flooring. Hockey sticks, wheel hubs and boat frames have all
taken advantage of the special properties of elm wood.
It also figures in many historical events. For example, George Washington first drew his sword underneath the Washington Elm in 1775. Poet
James Russell Lowell wrote of Washington:
A Special Affection
Appreciation of the elm tree is evidenced by North American settlers, who named the elm “the lady of the forest”. Countless poems have been penned about the stately giant.
“What figure more
Than that grave
strength so patient and so pure.”
(Atlantic Monthly: 1875 36)
What better words to describe the elm itself?