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Ulmus rubra (Slippery elm)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Ulmus rubra

Ulmus rubra Muhl.

Slippery Elm, Red Elm, Gray Elm, Soft Elm

Ulmaceae (Elm Family)

Synonym(s): Ulmus fulva


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

A 40-60 ft., sometimes taller, tree with a somewhat vase-shaped outline. Branchlets are less pendulous than U. americana. Dark green, rough leaves with fuzzy undersides. Tree with broad, open, flat-topped crown of spreading branches and large rough leaves.

The thick, slightly fragrant, edible, gluelike inner bark is dried and afterwards moistened for use as a cough medicine or as a poultice. This "slippery" inner bark (found by chewing through the outer bark of a twig) is helpful in identification. The Latin species name refers to the large brown buds covered with rust-colored hairs.


From the Image Gallery

1 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Obovate , Ovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Double-serrate , Serrate
Leaf Apex: Acuminate
Leaf Base: Oblique
Fruit Type: Samara
Size Notes: Up to about 110 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jan , Dec


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: ON , QC
Native Distribution: S.w. ME through extreme s. Que. & Ont., to s.e. ND, s. to n.w. FL, GA & c. TX
Native Habitat: Rich bottomlands; stream banks; idle ground

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, rich to dry, limestone soils.
Conditions Comments: Susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Considered weedy as it tends to infest hedges, fence rows and other idle gournd.


Use Medicinal: The moist inner bark is the source of the well-known slippery elm ingredient used in throat lozenges.
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Mourning Cloak, Columbia silkmoth

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Question Mark
(Polygonia interrogationis)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
Mourning Cloak
(Nymphalis antiopa)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Columbia silkmoth
(Hyalophora columbia)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Ulmus rubra in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Ulmus rubra in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Ulmus rubra


Record Modified: 2022-09-26
Research By: TWC Staff

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