The wych elm grows naturally – though rare – in the south of Finland in small isolated groups, usually near forest streams. But it can be planted successfully as far north as Oulu. Its range makes it a European tree, stretching from the British Isles to western Russia, in the area between the Black and Caspian Seas.
Wych elm can survive dry conditions, but its growth is slow. On moist rich forest slopes and in groves along streams it thrives. Particularly when bare of leaves, the species is identifiable from the typically sharp angles of the ascending branches. The crown is usually multi-stemmed, narrow and towering, in contrast to the domed crown of the European white elm (U.laevis). The leaves are broadest near the tips, usually with a rough, almost sandpapery upper surface, again contrasting with those of the white elm, which are smooth. The fruit is a winged nutlet almost the size of a 1€ coin.
Naturally growing wych elms are protected in Finland. Usually the species is found here in parks. It has also been grown sometimes for its valuable timber, though producing trees with good trunks of logging size is a major challenge.The Dutch elm disease(Ophiostoma ulmi) which spread to Europe from Asia has destroyed a large part of the elms of central and western Europe. It has not yet spread to Finland, but has reached southern Sweden and St. Petersburg, in Russia. For this reason the crowns of elms should be watched. Suddenly drying branches and a blackened cambium under the bark are symptoms of this destructive disease which should be immediately reported to the authorities.