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Siberian elm

(Ulmus pumila)

Photo of Siberian elm
Photo credit: Elizabeth J. Czarapata

A fast-growing tree that grows to be 50-70’ tall. The bark is gray-brown bark with furrows at maturity. Twigs and leaves are nearly hairless, with black hairs on the bud scales.


Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: littleleaf elm, dwarf elm
  • Scientific names: Ulmus campestris var. pumila; U. manshurica; U. turkestanica
Ecological threat:
  • Tolerates a wide variety of growing conditions including extreme temperatures, nutrient-poor soils and low moisture.
  • It can be found along roadsides, in pastures and grasslands, stream banks and prairies.
  • Due to the fast development and germination of seeds, dense thickets form rapidly, displacing native vegetation and reducing forage for native fauna.
Overview map of Siberian elm classification in WI
Restricted (orange) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted (hybrids and individuals used as a rootstock are exempt)

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for Siberian elm was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.


Leaves: Small (0.8-2.6” long), alternate, elliptical, smooth, singly-toothed leaves. The base of the leaves are tapered or rounded. Leaves can be slightly hairy when young. Mature leaves are dark green and smooth above while pale and nearly hairless on the underside.

Flowers: Greenish, lack petals, and occur in small drooping clusters of 2-5. Flowers appear in spring before leaves unfold.

Fruits & seeds: Flat, circular, winged fruit (samaras) are deeply notched at the tip and contain one circular seed with a smooth surface; about ½” wide. Fruits develop quickly and are dispersed by the wind. Seeds germinate quickly.

Similar species: American elm (Ulmus americana) and slippery elm (U. rubra) have twice-serrate leaves that are over 2.8” long and are asymmetrical at the base of the leaf. Chinese elm (Ulmus parviflora) flowers in late summer or fall and the apex and teeth of leaves are less sharply acute.


  • Pull seedlings by hand; Small trees can be removed with a hoe or a weed wrench.
  • Fire can also be used in fire-adapted communities to control small trees only a few years old.
  • Girdling the trees in late spring to mid-summer when the bark peels away from the sapwood easily and the sap is flowing causes the tree to die slowly over the course of a few years and will not stimulate resprouts. The bark must be removed to just outside of the wood; if the tree is cut too deep, it will resprout.
  • Glyphosate may be used for cut-stem treatments and can be done in the fall or winter.


View Siberian elm pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:
  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 96-97
Links for more information: