The Field Elm, is by far the most polymorphic of the European species, although its taxonomy remains a matter of contention. Its natural range is predominantly south European. Current treatment of the species owes much to Richens, who sank a number of British elms as either subspecies or varieties in 1968. However, Melville, writing 10 years later, identified five distinct species, several varieties and numerous complex hybrids. In 1992, 14 years after Melville, Armstrong identified no fewer than 40 species and microspecies.
The tree typically grows to < 30 m and bears a rounded crown. The leaves are generally elliptic, < 11 cm long by 7.5 cm broad, with the asymmetric base and acuminate apex typical of the genus; the upper surface is coarse. The species readily produces suckers from roots and stumps, even after devastation by Dutch elm disease, consequently genetic resources are not considered endangered