Latin name: Ulmus glabra
Ireland’s native wych elm is a deciduous tree. While the black alder tree may like marshy, wet soil, the Wych Elm finds it very difficult to grow in very wet, flooded areas.
Early in the springtime, you can see the pretty purple-green flowers of the wych elm beginning to peep through the buds. When they grow fully, they hang down from the tree in small bunches.
After the flowers have made their appearance, the leaves of the wych elm open out. They grow along the stem in a zigzag pattern. They are a rich green colour, oval in shape and have a jagged tooth patterned edge with a tip at the end. In late spring, the winged fruit of the wych elm matures, which look like flat papery circles with one seed inside each one.
So, what does the word ‘wych’ mean? ‘Wych’ comes from the Old English word ‘wice’, which means ‘supple’ or ‘flexible’. The wood was very good for making chairs. This is where the term ‘wicker chair’ comes from.
Wych elms arer often found growing in graveyards in Ireland, and most coffins used to be made from elm wood. This association with death probably comes from the Celts. They believed the wych elm to be a sacred protector of the dead, and that it helped the soul’s passage to the underworld.