Lexicon DIY-Knowledge


Very common in Central Europe, but also in Canada and the Northern United States, the elm grows where it finds light and warmth in abundance, little frost and a soil rich in nutrients. Three types are important: field elm (ulmus carpinifolia), mountain or wych-elm (u. montana) and fluttering elm (u. glabra).While the trees are referred to as elm trees (or Rüster in German), the timber derived from them is always called Rüster in Germany.

Elm trees require a lot of light. They appear mainly in maple-ash forests and in beech-hornbeam forests where they stand alone or in small groups or thickets. In their youth they tend to grow quickly. At the age of 30 they have completed some 90% of their total growth in height which is finished when they are 60 years old. Elm trees can reach an age of up to 500 years and grow to a height of 30 meters. A trunk circumference of 6 to 7 meters is not uncommon with older specimen. The evenly rounded crown sits on a long and straight trunk which stays undivided until the crown is reached at great height. Strong and deep-going roots anchor the elm firmly in the ground. On the wind-side of the tree additional board roots sometimes form which provide extra stability.
The old tree has a grey to dark-brown bark which is marked by long vertical. Underneath it is the bast, which in the older days was frequently used to bind things together, to make ropes and beehives. It surrounds the yellow-white wide sapwood and with a clear contrast the dark heartwood.
The heartwood of elm trees is among the most beautiful European timbers. Its good technical properties make the wood of the field elm commercially more attractive than the other types. It is pressure resistant, hard, moderately flexible, tough, bendable and durable.
Amongst others, there are great differences in the hardness of the wood, also within single trunks, which sometimes make it dificult to process the wood or treat its surface. You need very sharp tools if you want to obtain neat results. Elm wood can be sliced and carved. All joints with glue, nails and screws hold well. The sapwood does not last for very long after exposure to atmospheric influences, whereas the heartwood is quite durable if used in ground and water engineering.
Rüster (elm) has a characteristic and not always pleasant smell.
It is used for indoor purposes and furniture making as veneer, as solid wood by turners and wheelwrights, as structural timber in housing, boat, ship and bridge construction. Moulded parts (bentwood furniture), musical instruments and pipe heads are also made from Rüster (elm).
In ancient Greece, the elm had a special meaning. It was dedicated to the messenger god Hermes, the protector of merchants and thieves. With him the winged seeds of the elm tree accompanied the souls to meet their judge. Nymphs planted shady elms to commemorate dead heroes.
In Southern France the elm plays the same role as the lime-tree does in our parts. As meeting place it was often used as the stage for preaching, criminal and civil judgement and celebrations.