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Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl.)

Also known as red elm.

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Range - Expand

Native or Not Present
Expanded or Not Present
Native or Expanded or Not Present

This tentative map is based on our own research. It may have limited data on Canada and/or Mexico, and there is some subjectivity in our assignment of plants as introduced vs. expanded. Read more in this blog post.


Slippery elm is found in a wide range of forests in the eastern US, its range extending barely into Canada. Habitats include rich mesic forests, especially the moist lower slopes of ravines and bluffs, floodplains and other moist bottomland woods, and dry upland sites on limestone soils. Found both in intact wild areas and disturbed anthropogenic habitats, including small fragmented woodlands along roadsides and railroads.

Mostly occurs on fine-textured soils, ranging from loam to clay-loam and silt-loam. Also found on rocky uplands but typically only on limestone-derived soils. Tolerates poorly drained soils and occasional flooding. Tolerates alkaline soil but absent from the most acidic soil.

In early-successional growth, slippery elm can become a canopy dominant, temporarily, often growing alongside black cherry, red maple, or black walnut. In mature forests, slippery elm often persists as an understory tree, under the canopy of other trees, and can sometimes achieve canopy dominance when other trees die. Slippery elm is among the more shade-tolerant species, although less shade-tolerant than sugar maple (Acer saccharum).

Two diseases, dutch elm disease and elm yellows, introduced from East Asia and Europe, respectively, have negatively affected slippery elm and reduced its extent, dominance, and lifespan in some of its habitats. However it has not been eliminated and trees are still able to reach maturity and reproduce in most of its range. In much of its range this species has greater innate resistance to both of these diseases, and has fared better than American elm (Ulmus americana). Because American elm was so severely effected, slippery elm has increased in some areas where the two species overlap in habitat, particularly in moist bottomland forests.

Red Elm | The Wood Database (About This Site)

Slippery Elm | Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra (Slippery Elm) | Illinois Wildflowers (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra (Slippery Elm) | USDA PLANTS Database (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra | Go Botany (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra (Slippery Elm) | Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder (About This Site)

Slippery Elm | Virginia Tech Dendrology Factsheets (About This Site)

Slippery Elm | Silvics of North America (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra | Biota of North America Project (BONAP) (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra | NatureServe Explorer (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra | Flora of North America (About This Site)

Slippery Elm | Maryland Biodiversity Project (About This Site)

Ulmus rubra Muhl. (Slippery Elm, Red Elm) | Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora (About This Site)