The elm is a majestic tree with a tragic destiny. It grows in the forest, in a protective hedge, or isolated in a clearing. But this tree develops better in the light, therefore mainly on the edges of the forest. Elms can reach 30 to 40 m in height when fully grown. The foliage is a beautiful green, the serrated leaf is very recognizable with its very marked veins, which grow asymmetrically on either side of the stem.
The wood is quite dark in tone, the grain fine and silky. The peculiarity of this species is that it is very prone to the proliferation of burls. A burl of wood is an anarchic agglomeration of cells, creating an outgrowth of wood. This one suddenly has a very tortuous and very irregular grain making the wood very beautiful and interesting to highlight.
Did you know?
The elm has almost disappeared from our landscape, decimated by a disease, graphiosis, carried by a microscopic fungus, spread from tree to tree by tiny beetles or via the roots.
The first epidemic appeared in the 1920s in northern Europe. It reached North America ten years later, via the transatlantic trade in contaminated wood. The second much more destructive epidemic began around 1960. It was caused by a new, much more virulent species of the fungus. The 27,000 elms in the City of Paris disappeared between 1970 and 1977. On French territory, the loss was 70% higher between 1975 and 1987.
Today there are only immature elms left, since the fungus begins its work of undermining when the tree is 10 to 15 years old.
The elm was formerly planted abundantly in bocage regions to serve as timber. Resistant to water when immersed, like oak and alder, it was notably used for the hubs of watermill paddle wheels, as pilings and for gun carriages. Marine wood, it was still used in the 19th century for pumps, pulley boxes, bars.
The hardness of elm has made it a working wood of choice, especially for screws, wheels, clogs, boat hulls. Used as bow wood, it was used to make bows.
Today the elm still used comes from old stocks before the disappearance of these, or from trees of small sections. It is mainly used for veneer furniture, where the elm burl is revealed in its most beautiful aspect.
For me, it is the wood par excellence that contains treasures of richness, movement and incredible inner life, just waiting to be highlighted.