Wednesday, May 20, 2015
For years I have been finding wild saplings of a tree growing on the back hill in suckering thickets. I try to cut it back so I can encourage the maples and sweetgums and tupelos and oaks I have planted to grow unimpeded, but it is a really tough thing to eliminate.
It can't be dug up no matter how hard I try, and the bendy young stems are tough to cut through with even the sharpest pruners.
I kept wondering what it was. I have never been able to get rid of it. It's everywhere.
Then it started to appear along the edge of the meadow, right where Jim stops mowing and the wild takes over. I've been leaving the young trees, thinking it will be nice to have volunteer saplings there, growing into eventual shade trees at the edge of the lawn.
But what the heck kind of tree are they? The leaves look like elms, or maybe beeches.
I was getting a little uneasy because they're growing in earth that was disturbed when the house was built, they are tenaciously rooted, fast growing, and suckering. And they seem to be everywhere. Their best friends on the hill seem to be Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose and poison ivy.
I finally decided to do some research before letting them grow any more at the edge of our yard. Pictures / descriptions confirmed this is Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila. The uneven base of the leaf, the way the toothed margins point forward, the leaf shape and the flat green color were matches for Siberian elm.
It's an Asian elm, on Connecticut's invasive threat list. It's aggressive, it grows in poor soils and it is an unattractive and disease prone tree. It should not be planted. Of course it moved into the disturbed earth of the hill and the meadow around our house.
Siberian elm is not recommended for landscape use today because of its weak, easily damaged limbs and branches, its susceptibility to numerous insect and disease pests, and its general lack of ornamental interest. It could be effectively grown in poor soils, as a windbreak, or along slopes for erosion control where ornamental features are not an issue.
I'll never be able to get rid of it on the hill where thickets keep forming below the maples and other trees. But I'm going to take down those saplings in the meadow right now and paint the cut stems with Brush B Gone so they don't sucker.