Ulmus laevis - Russian, fluttering, or European white elm

The strong-growing Russian elm, despite the common name, is also native to Finland though it is seldom planted and little known nowadays. In the province of Häme it is a typical species of the shores of Lake Vanajavesi, in rich forest soils achieving a diameter of over a metre, given a few centuries. In the past the leathery bark was used where tough bindings were needed, and the wood itself for wooden harness bows.

On young trees the branches are slender but it eventually grows a broad mounded crown, and the trunk is knobbly. It bears clusters of red-brown flowers before coming into leaf; at its best looks as if covered in a red veil.

In its early years the Russian elm is faster-growing than the Scotch or wych elm (U. glabra). The leaves of mature trees are smooth on the upper surface, whereas those of the wych elm are rough like sandpaper. The seeds, which ripen not later than Midsummer, are round nutlets surrounded by a feathery-edged papery wing about 1 cm across.

The Russian elms at Mustila are handsome old trees growing in rich soil near houses and old ruins. A small plantation can be seen at Nokkala. In Finland there has as yet been no sign of damage by Dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma ulmi), which has destroyed vast numbers of elms in warmer climates over recent decades. Russian elm is said to be fairly resistant to this disease.


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