Valley Forge Elm was developed by Agricultural Research Service in Maryland and released by the U.S. National Arboretum in 1995. This cultivar is the most resistant to Dutch Elm Disease of all American Elm selections. It also is quite resistant to Elm Leaf Beetle, which can be problematic on other cultivars. Valley Forge Elm has a typical elm shape, with multiple upright leaders cascading outward with age.
However, the tree is not without its flaws and young trees could be considered irregular or floppy. In Erik’s experience, “It’s easy to tell the difference between Valley Forge Elm and other cultivars, especially Princeton Elm, in our fields. Where Princeton is distinctly upright in branching with a mostly straight leader, Valley Forge has a greater tendency to sweep back and forth, with lateral branches being more horizontal. The laterals tend to weep downward, which looks beautiful on an established tree but not so much on a 2-inch caliper plant in the fields. However, you can’t argue with its disease and pest resistance.”
Valley Forge Elm is a rapid grower, which can be considered a double-edged sword depending on your objectives. On the one hand, you will not have to wait long for the tree to provide shade and water interception. On the other hand, Valley Forge Elm does have a greater pruning requirement than other moderately-growing shade trees, especially when young. The trees have been known to develop a more manageable habit with age, but you should manage your expectations when the tree is young.
The leaves of American Elm and its cultivars decay rapidly when compared to other hardwoods like Oaks, Maples, and Hickory. They are also high in nutrient content. For these reasons and its rapid growth, American Elm is useful as a soil-building plant where soils are depleted or generally poor.
American Elm and its cultivars are generally self-sterile. While individual trees can produce fruit, they are rarely viable. If fruit production is a concern, plant American Elm cultivars like Valley Forge Elm individually to avoid cross pollination.
The wood of American Elm and its cultivars has interlocking grains. This makes it tolerant of flexing and bending while retaining strength, but also makes splitting firewood from American Elm either horrendously difficult or a great workout- depending on your perspective. Elm wood is used for hockey sticks, furniture, and flooring, and was used to make food storage crates due to its odorless nature.