Some might say elm flowers are an acquired taste. But, I have very much enjoyed chasing down the fleeting flowers of a number of elm species (genus Ulmus) this spring at the Arnold Arboretum. The flowers are incredibly small and anything but showy since they are wind pollinated (no need to attract an animal). Indeed, the flowers entirely lack petals. But, the clusters of dangling small flowers (for example, on the American elm), or the wildly pronounced papillae (more surface area to catch flying pollen) on the stigmas of the Japanese elm, are actually worth a good closeup look with (or even without) a hand lens (preferably hung around your neck with a sneaker shoelace—old-school style).

American elm flowers by Ned Friedman

On the left above is a wonderful inflorescence of an American elm (Ulmus americana; 250-53*C) specimen at the Arnold. The pink sheath at the base of each flower is the calyx of fused sepals. Sticking out of each flower are the pollen-producing stamens (empty with anthers now black). Once pollinated, fruit development in elms proceeds with great haste. On the right, the young developing winged fruits of American elm with magnificent fringes of hairs (561-89*B) just a few weeks after pollination.

Probably not corsage material, but without a doubt, American elm flowers and fruits are wonderful to see, especially with a light breeze.

To supplement my Posts from the Collections (for those who crave a bit more), I am uploading one Arboretum plant image every day for the foreseeable future on Instagram. Find me at nedfriedman.