Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Winged Elm - Ulmus alata   Michaux
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Section 6 » Order Urticales » Family Ulmaceae
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DistributionThough it loosely has a statewide range, specifically it is absent or essentially so in much of the eastern third of the Coastal Plain, the northern foothills, and the northern mountains. Thus, it ranges mainly across the Piedmont and the eastern two-thirds of the Coastal Plain, plus scattered at lower elevations in the southern mountains.

It ranges over most of the southeastern quarter of the country, north only to northern VA and central MO, and south to central FL and central TX.
AbundanceGenerally common and widespread in the Piedmont (except in the foothills), and the western half of the Coastal Plain. Infrequent in the Sandhills and in much of the central and eastern Coastal Plain, and essentially absent east of Bertie, Martin, and Jones counties. Rare to uncommon in the southern half of the mountains.
HabitatThis species occurs in a wide array of forested habitats, including old fields and thickets. It is primarily an upland species, of dry to mesic forests. However, it also occurs in floodplain forests, on levees, and other wetlands, but not in swamps or other areas of standing water. It is often present in rocky places such as outcrop margins and on hardpans, even where the soils are high pH.
PhenologyFlowers in February and March; and fruits shortly thereafter, in March and April. This and other elms are among the first woody species to set seed, even by late winter.
IdentificationThis is a familiar medium deciduous tree, though in some areas can be a small tree but in some bottomlands can reach close to 90-100 feet tall. Usually it ranges to 60-70 feet. It can usually be identified by the corky wings that are present on many twigs; Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) also shows corky wings, but that species has medium to thick twigs and branches, whereas Winged Elm twigs are slender. The alternate leaves are quite small, often just 2 inches long, and elliptical; margins are noticeably serrated. There are other trees with somewhat similar leaves, but none have corky twigs. Even if corky twigs are not visible, you should be able to identify the tree by its quite small and narrowly elliptical leaves. If visible, the small but “furry”, winged capsules clearly signal an elm species. Over much of the state, especially in the Piedmont, this species is seen daily by observers working in forested habitats, as well as in old fields and upland thickets.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Wahoo (a poor name, as it is often the name for Euonymus atropurpureus).
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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