Membrillo is a large, deciduous tree with a rather open, ovate crown; it usually grows 10 - 25 metres tall, though some specimens are taller. The bole is often 75 cm in diameter.
The tree is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of wood.
Ulmus mexicana (Liebm.) Planch., the Mexican elm, is a large tree endemic to Mexico and Central America. It is most commonly found in cloud forest and the higher elevations (800–2200 m) of tropical rain forest with precipitation levels of 2–4 m per year, ranging from San Luis Potosi south to Chiapas in Mexico, and from Guatemala to Panama beyond. The tree was first described botanically in 1873.
Ulmus mexicana is probably the tallest of all the elm species, occasionally reaching a height of 84 m (273 feet), and a d.b.h. of 2.5 m (8 feet), certainly one of the tallest trees in Mexico. The tree is also distinguished by its deeply fluted grey trunk, supporting a deep crown, its dense foliage casting a heavy shadow. The leaves vary widely in size from 3–16 cm in length by 2–7 cm breadth, elliptic to obovate, surface glossy, but dull on the underside, with petioles 5–10 mm long. The tree has distinctive racemose inflorescences up to 7 cm in length comprising nine clusters of 40 perfect apetalous wind-pollinated flowers which emerge between December and February. The small samarae, 9.0 × 2.3 mm, are covered with long straight hairs, and are shed in March . Natural regeneration is poor.
Although much of its natural range is threatened by deforestation, the tree is singularly unpopular in the timber trade on account of its deeply fluted trunk, and thus not considered endangered. The timber is hard and heavy (Gs 0.55), but difficult to dry, and can warp badly. Moreover, its high silica content (0.35) damages tools. The wood is used for tools, furniture, and floors, whilst the foliage is commonly used as fodder for cattle. The tree is occasionally planted for shade or ornamentation.