Elm Tree Symbolism and Meanings

 6 min read

The elm tree (Ulmus) is possibly the archetypal tree that comes to mind when one hears the word “tree”.

An ancient species, it has variously thrived in Asia and Europe for millions of years and maybe subconsciously imprinted in our genetic memory as a longtime friend and beloved arboreal earthling.

Elm tree symbolism has long been a source of fascination for people around the world, who have ascribed all sorts of symbolism and meaning to these stately trees. Elm trees have been associated with strength, wisdom, and stability, and are often seen as symbols of relationships and communication.

Whether you’re a nature lover or simply someone who appreciates the beauty and majesty of trees, the elm tree is a truly wonderful symbol that has much to offer.

Symbolism:Communication and relationships
Divine Association:Orpheus (ancient Greek)
Astrological Associations:Mercury, Saturn

About Elm Trees

Elm Tree
Elm Tree

There are around 18 Ulmus species of hardy, deciduous trees that come from the northern temperate zone. The leaves alternate and are simple with teeth usually only at the bottom, and they’re often asymmetrical.

You’ll find inconspicuous bisexual flowers in clusters on naked twigs during early springtime. The fruit looks like a disk with one seed in the center, and it has a wing surrounding it.

The English elm (U. procera) is native to western and southern Europe, and it’s a tall tree with leaves that are 2–4in (5–10cm) long.

These leaves have coarsely serrated edges and 10-12 pairs of lateral veins running along them. Meanwhile, the wych elm (U. glabra) has a much wider range–it can be found all over Europe and Siberia!

This tree’s leaves are larger, at 4–8in (10–20cm), with 12-18 pairs of lateral veins each. Lastly, the American elm’s (U. americana) leaves can grow up to 6 inches long, and its fruits have deep notches in them.

Many elms in Europe and America have died because of Dutch elm disease.

Although juvenile trees are still healthy, as soon as the bark matures and becomes a certain thickness, the elm bark beetle returns and infects the tree with a deadly fungus called Ophiostoma.

Practical Uses

Elm leaves are highly sought-after by farmers because they contain high levels of minerals, starch, and protein. This tradition dates back to the Stone Age.

Elm wood was popular in pre-industrial western Europe and was used for a variety of objects including furniture, waterpipes, cartwheels and coffins.

The Minoans of Crete made chariot wheels from elm and the Greeks used them for temple door posts and lintels.

Natural Healing

Groups such as the Choctaw and Iroquois would drink elm infusions for relief from menstrual issues, while others used them to treat colds/coughs, diarrhoea, internal bleeding, and fever.

Modern Western herbalism relies heavily on slippery elm (U.fulva) due to its high mucilage content– making it ideal for soothing purposes when applied externally to wounds or ingested for other reasons.

Furthermore, tree essence energizes the mind while also promoting equilibrium within the heart.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of Elm Trees

Elm Tree Branches
Elm Tree Branches

The elm has a long history of being incorporated into funerary practices, dating back to Ancient Greece. The tree was also mentioned by Virgil as being present in the underworld.

In addition, due to its association with the fairy world, it was given the nickname “elfin wood” in England (and “Elfenholz” in Germany). Furthermore, the elm played an important role in Scandinavian folklore as one of the Vartraed–a guardian of farmland that served as a bridge between humans and nature spirits.

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is a tragic one, but it has also given rise to some beautiful mythology. According to the legend, when Orpheus played his lyre in mourning for Eurydice, an elm grove sprang up from the sound of his music.

On his return from the underworld, he found shelter under an elm tree and played while all the animals of the wood gathered around him, enchanted by his music.

Elm Tree Symbolism and Meanings

Elm Tree Flower
Elm Tree Flower

The Divine Feminine

The elm tree is sacred in many cultures and has long been associated with the divine feminine. In Norse mythology, the first woman, Embla, was created from elm wood.

The Ainu goddess Kamui Fuchi is also said to be the daughter of an elm tree.

As a result, the elm embodies not just the archetypal Divine Feminine but also the borderland between heaven and earth where human femininity is born from the Divine.

Healing Depression

As a Bach Flower Remedy, elm can heal depression caused by the belief that there is too much to do and no way to get it all done.

This remedy is designed for those of us who feel we are called to heal Mother Earth and her inhabitants–a task which might seem Saturnian in its scope (i.e. feeling limited).

Limitations often get talked about in a negative light, but they are essential. For example, if we take things one day at a time and complete small goals along the way, we will be more successful than if we try to accomplish unrealistic objectives that overwhelm us before we even start.

Often, the accomplishments we thought were small are nothing of the sort. Something as simple as smiling at a stranger can have huge, long-term benefits that we may never even realize.


The Greek name for elm trees is derived from the name of the tree nymph Ptelea. Elm trees are often mentioned alongside nymphs in ancient literature because they frequently grow side by side.

For example, legendary mountain nymphs would plant elms on graves, and altars and sacred wells dedicated to nymphs were usually located near groves of elm trees.


According to Homer’s Iliad, mountain nymphs plant elms at burial sites. This signifies the tree’s connection with smooth transitions, such as the passage from the world of mortals to the afterworld and the land of light.

From a physical standpoint, elm wood is quite elastic, and elms can prosper in different types of soils.

Elm can help you navigate tough transitions smoothly, including major life changes like birth and death, moving to a new home or city, starting or ending a relationship, and changing jobs.


Elm trees have fascinated people for centuries due to their deep symbolism and meaning.

In European folklore, elm trees were seen as a symbol of strength and stability, while in Celtic mythology they represented rebirth and regeneration.

In Chinese culture, elm trees are considered to be a sign of good luck. No matter what culture you look at, there is sure to be some fascinating symbolism associated with elm trees.