Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Corky flanges and colorful leaves

with 12 comments

Cedar Elm Flanges and Changing Leaves 1055

What books call the “corky flanges” on cedar elm trees, Ulmus crassifolia, are strange structures, typically wider than the branches they grow on. Here you see some particularly broad ones, along with a few unusually colorful cedar elm leaves, along the Boatright Memorial Trail in northwest Austin on December 15th. Talk about chaos, right?

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2014 at 5:32 AM

12 Responses

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  1. This really is strange, isn’t it? I didn’t think it particularly crass, but when I checked the etymology, I see crassifolia is rooted in crassus — “solid, thick, fat; dense” — and that our modern meaning developed later.

    There’s a plant that has a white, corky substance inside the stem, but I haven’t been able to find it. My first thought was of frostweed (which also has wings along the stem) but then I remembered splitting the stems and pulling out the corky stuff when I was a kid. It might even have been one of my mother’s garden plants, like hydrangea.


    December 29, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    • The folia—Latin for ‘leaves’—are the key here, because the leaves of a cedar elm are stiff and coarse, which is to say crassa. The same adjective would also work for the flanges, which I’ll grant are strange as well. I’m not complaining, though, because strange things draw my attention and make for photographs that draw other people’s attention.

      If you remember what plant has the corky stuff in it, please come back and let us know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2014 at 3:36 PM

  2. What are these? Outgrowths of the cork cambium or some sort of infection?

    Pairodox Farm

    December 29, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    • My impression is that the flanges (also called wings) aren’t due to an infection. I’ve done some searching but haven’t found a source that explains how the flanges form or what purpose they serve. The next time I’m around a local botanist I’ll see if I can find out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2014 at 3:55 PM

  3. Interesting. These bear some resemblance to an invasive Euonymus here in the northeast.

    Steve Gingold

    December 29, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    • I’m sorry to hear that Euonymus is invasive in New England. The flanges in Austin occur on a native tree, and the related species called winged elm has them as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2014 at 3:59 PM

  4. Euonymus is becoming a problem here as well. But we do have Burr Oaks, with delightfully corky wings.


    January 19, 2015 at 11:08 AM

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