The wych elm grows to a height of between 10 and 40 metres and develops a broad, irregularly spreading crown. The bark is smooth at first but later develops thick, straight ribs and turns grey. The egg-shaped leaves have short stalks and are broadest in the upper half with sharply pointed tips. One lobe of the asymmetrically heart-shaped base covers the stalk. The upper surface of the leaf is dark green and very rough to the touch. The red flowers appear in late February and the winged fruits have a broad seed in the centre.
The wych elm can be found throughout Europe, usually in hilly regions and the foothills of mountains. It prefers moist soils and high humidity.