The European white elm grows mainly in central and eastern Europe, extending west only as far as western France and not reaching Britain. It is most plentiful in lowlands on alluvial deposits, and occurs only up to heights of about 500 metres. It tolerates greater moisture than any other elm, and is not harmed even by passing floods. For that reason, it is often found on the banks of rivers, in the company of alder, poplar and willow. It is rarely found in dry situations, where it has a very brief life span.
The European white elm reaches a height of 20 to 30 metres, and is distinguished by plentiful trunk suckers. The bark is scaly, and shallowly furrowed. The buds are sharply pointed with two-toned brown scales edged with a paler hue. The flowers appear about two weeks later than those of the wych elm and are similarly borne on stalks 2 centimetres long. The ovate leaves have 14 to 20 pairs of secondary veins. Of all the European elms this species has the greatest resistance to fungus disease. The timber, with pale-brown heartwood, is not as highly prized as that of the smooth-leaved elm, and so this tree is hardly ever planted for forestry purposes.
Leaves: 5—9 cm long, ovate, with unequal base, smooth upper surface and coarsely, doubly serrate margin. Flowers: Shortly stalked, pendent. Fruit:
Long-stalked, oval-winged samara, 1-cm long, with a central seed.