Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) Photo: R. Nijboer (CC-BY SA 4.0)

Siberian elm

Ulmus pumila


  • Deciduous tree with a rounded crown
  • Grows 9-21 m (30-70’) tall
  • Bark is gray/brown and shallowly furrowed when mature
  • Twigs are zig-zagged in shape with a leaf bud at each bend
  • Leaves are 1-2.5″ long, elliptic, toothed, and have pointed tips
  • Flowers appear before leaves, are green/reddish, lack petals, and occur in drooping clusters of 2-5
  • Fruits are flat, circular, smooth, winged samaras that hang in clusters, containing one seed each
  • Prefers sunny, open areas, but grows in various habitats
    (e.g., grasslands, meadows, forest edges, roadsides, streambanks)
Siberian elm tree with round crown.
Bark is gray or brown and shallowly furrowed at maturity.
Leaves are elliptic, toothed, stalked, and have pointed tips.
Flowers lack petals, are green/reddish, occur in drooping clusters, and appear before leaves.
Fruits are flat, circular, smooth, winged samaras.
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Introduction and spread

  • Native to eastern Siberia, northern China, Russia, Manchuria, and Korea
  • Introduced to North America in the mid-1800s for its rapid growth, hardiness, and ability to thrive in varying moisture conditions
  • Resistant to drought, cold, and Dutch elm disease
  • Still sold commercially, and becomes highly invasive when it escapes cultivation
  • Widespread in BC’s southern Interior, particularly the Okanagan
  • Spreads mainly by seed, but can re-sprout from the stump and roots

Consequences of invasion

  • Germinates readily and grows rapidly
  • Quickly forms thickets of seedlings in disturbed soils
    (e.g., roadsides, utility corridors, berms, fence lines)
  • Can cross pollinate with native elms, complicating identification
  • Displaces native vegetation, especially shade-intolerant species
  • Reduces forage for wildlife and livestock

Status in the CKISS region

Integrated pest management options


  • Do not plant this species. Learn about Grow Me Instead for native plant alternatives, and become PlantWise.
  • Immediately revegetate bare, disturbed soils with a non-invasive seed mix to reduce invasion.
  • Do not move contaminated soils to a new area.
  • Clean your clothing, boots, and gear before entering/leaving an area.

Mechanical control

  • Hand-pull or dig out seedlings when soils are moist.
  • Girdle trees in late spring when trees are actively growing.
  • Cut down mature trees.
  • Mowing can be effective, but requires repeated removal of re-sprouts.

Chemical control

  • General-use herbicides (e.g., glyphosate, triclopyr) has been effective.
  • Applying herbicide to the cut stem/stump during late spring has been effective.

Cultural control

  • Prescribed burns can effectively kill seedlings.

Biological control

  • There are currently no known biocontrol agents for this species in BC.

Additional resources

Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila). Photo: Tom DeGomez.