Overview

Brief Summary

Ulmaceae -- Elm family

    John H. Cooley and J. W. Van Sambeek

    Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), identified by its "slippery"  inner bark, is commonly a medium-sized tree of moderately fast  growth that may live to be 200 years old. Sometimes called red  elm, gray elm, or soft elm, this tree grows best and may reach 40  m (132 ft) on moist, rich soils of lower slopes and flood plains,  although it may also grow on dry hillsides with limestone soils.  It is abundant and associated with many other hardwood trees in  its wide range. Slippery elm is not an important lumber tree; the  hard strong wood is considered inferior to American elm even  though they are often mixed and sold together as soft elm. The  tree is browsed by wildlife and the seeds are a minor source of  food. It has long been cultivated but succumbs to Dutch elm  disease.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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John H. Cooley

Source: Silvics of North America

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Comprehensive Description

Comments

With the decline of American Elm (Ulmus americana) in Illinois, Slippery Elm is now the most commonly encountered tree in its genus. It can be distinguished from other elms (Ulmus spp.) in the state by its rough-textured leaves, the forked lateral veins on its leaves, its hairy young twigs, its short pedicels (1/8" in length), and its large samaras (½-¾" across), which have hairy seed bodies and hairless winged membranes. The common name of this tree is derived from its mucilaginous inner bark. Another common is Red Elm.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This tree is 40-80' tall (rarely taller) at maturity, forming a single trunk about 1-3' across and an ovoid crown that is sometimes flat-topped. The branches are ascending to widely spreading, becoming subdivided into numerous twigs. Trunk bark is predominantly gray, consisting of narrow flat ridges and shallow furrows; inner bark is more reddish brown, as revealed by some of the furrows. The bark of branches and older twigs are more smooth and gray to reddish brown, while the bark of young twigs is reddish brown and hairy. Winter buds at the tips of twigs are brown with reddish hairs. Alternate leaves are 4-6" long and 2-3" across; they are ovate to slightly obovate and doubly serrate along their margins. Leaf venation is pinnate with a central vein and about 12-15 parallel lateral veins. At least 4 lateral veins on each side of the central vein are forked. The upper leaf surface is dull medium green and rough-textured from stiff minute hairs. The lower leaf surface is whitish green and more or less covered with short pubescence. The white ribs of the veins are very prominent along the lower surface. The petioles are about ¼-½" long, light green, and short-pubescent. The leaves are arranged along each twig in two ranks. The greenish red flowers of Slippery Elm are unisexual or perfect (usually the latter); they are arranged in dense clusters of 5-20 flowers up to 1" across on short pedicels about 1/8" long. Male, female, and perfect flowers have a short tubular calyx with 5-9 oblong lobes. The calyx is green and hairy; its lobes are erect. Male flowers have 5-9 stamens with reddish anthers, while female flowers have a pistil with a pair of stigmata that are plumose and pinkish red; perfect flowers have both stamens and a pistil. The blooming period occurs from early to mid-spring before the leaves develop; the flowers are wind-pollinated. Fertile female or perfect flowers are replaced by samaras about ½-¾" across. Individual samaras are ovate to orbicular and flattened, consisting of a central seed body that is surrounded by a wide membranous wing. The membranous wings of the samaras are glabrous, while the central seed bodies are hairy. Each samara has a cleft tip that is only slightly notched. The samaras become tan at maturity; they are distributed by the wind during late spring as the leaves develop. The root system is woody and widely spreading. The deciduous leaves usually become dull yellow during the fall. Cultivation
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

General: Elm Family (Ulmaceae). This graceful, arching tree reaches 20 m, with twigs that are scabrous-pubescent. It can live to be 200 years old and is identified by its "slippery" inner bark. The winter-buds are densely covered with red-brown hairs. The leaves are oblong to obovate, thick and stiff and 10-20 cm. They are pinnately veined and not equilateral. The flowers are subsessile in dense fascicles with 5-9 stamens. They appear before the leaves in the spring. The fruit is a flat, 1-seeded samara. It is suborbicular, 1.5-2 cm and pubescent over the seed.

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

Red elm

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Slippery Elm is common in Illinois, occurring in every county (see Distribution Map). Habitats include rich mesic woodlands, floodplain woodlands, the lower slopes of wooded bluffs, rocky upland woodlands, shaded gravelly seeps, riverbanks, edges of limestone glades, thickets, and disturbed areas along railroads and roadways. In dense deciduous woodlands, Slippery Elm exists primarily as an understory tree. It benefits from disturbance that reduces competition from dominant canopy trees.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Slippery elm's range extends from southwestern Maine west to extreme
southern Quebec, southern Ontario, New York, northern Michigan, central
Minnesota, eastern North Dakota; south through eastern South Dakota,
central Nebraska, southwestern Oklahoma, and central Texas; then east to
northwestern Florida and Georgia. Slippery elm is uncommon in the part
of its range south of Kentucky; it is most abundant in the southern part
of the Lake States and in the cornbelt of the Midwest [10,12,24].
  • 24. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 12. Elias, Thomas S. 1970. The genera of Ulmaceae in the southeastern United States. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 51: 18-40. [11742]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

14 Great Plains

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Occurrence in North America

AL AR CT DE FL GA IL IN IA KS
KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NE
NH NJ NY NC ND OH OK PA RI SC
SD TN TX VT VA WV WI ON PQ

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Slippery elm extends from southwestern Maine west to New York,  extreme southern Quebec, southern Ontario, northern Michigan,  central Minnesota, and eastern North Dakota; south to eastern  South Dakota, central Nebraska, southwestern Oklahoma, and  central Texas; then east to northwestern Florida and Georgia.  Slippery elm is uncommon in that part of its range lying south to  Kentucky and is most abundant in the southern part of the Lake  States and in the cornbelt of the Midwest (8).

   
  -The native range of slippery elm.


  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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John H. Cooley

Source: Silvics of North America

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Ont., Que.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
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For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS web site. This plant is found in moist woods, in southern Maine and southern Quebec to eastern North Dakota, and south to Florida and Texas.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: perfect, tree

Slippery elm is a native, medium-sized, deciduous tree reaching 60 to 70
feet (18-21 m) on average sites and 135 feet (41 m) on the best sites.
In the forest, it has a straight bole with the trunk dividing into
widespreading limbs high up the tree. The crown is broad and rather
flat topped. The perfect flowers form dense packed clusters. The root
system is shallow but widespreading [8,11,18,21].
  • 8. Chapman, William K.; Bessette, Alan E. 1990. Trees and shrubs of the Adirondacks. Utica, NY: North Country Books, Inc. 131 p. [12766]
  • 21. Hosie, R. C. 1969. Native trees of Canada. 7th ed. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Forestry Service, Department of Fisheries and Forestry. 380 p. [3375]
  • 11. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 18. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]

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Description

Trees , 18-35 m; crowns open. Bark brown to red, deeply and irregularly furrowed. Wood soft. Branches spreading; twigs gray, densely pubescent when young, glabrous with age. Buds obtuse; scales red, margins red-tomentose. Leaves: petiole 5-7 mm, pubescent. Leaf blade obovate to ovate, 8-16 × 5-7.5 cm, base oblique, margins doubly serrate in distal 1/2-3/4, singly serrate proximally, basal teeth 6 or fewer, rounded, less distinct, apex acuminate; surfaces abaxially tomentose, dense tufts of white hair in axils of major veins, adaxially harshly scabrous, trichomes pointed toward apex, margins ciliate. Inflorescences dense fascicles less than 2.5 cm, 8-20-flowered, flowers and fruits not pendulous, subsessile; pedicel 1-2 mm. Flowers: calyx green to reddish, shallowly lobed, lobes 5-9, reddish pubescent; stamens 5-9; anthers reddish; stigmas exserted, pink reddish. Samaras yellow to cream, suborbiculate, 12-18 mm diam., broadly winged, samaras pubescent on body only, rusty-tomentose, margins glabrous. Seeds thickened, not inflated. 2 n = 28.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Ulmus crispa Willdenow; U. fulva Michaux; U. pendula Willdenow; U. pubescens Walter
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Slippery Elm is common in Illinois, occurring in every county (see Distribution Map). Habitats include rich mesic woodlands, floodplain woodlands, the lower slopes of wooded bluffs, rocky upland woodlands, shaded gravelly seeps, riverbanks, edges of limestone glades, thickets, and disturbed areas along railroads and roadways. In dense deciduous woodlands, Slippery Elm exists primarily as an understory tree. It benefits from disturbance that reduces competition from dominant canopy trees.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Habitat characteristics

More info for the term: cover

Slippery elm grows best on moist, rich soils of lower slopes,
streambanks, river terraces, and bottomlands but is also found on much
drier sites, particularly those of limestone origin. Examples of sites
on which it is an important species are floodplains, terraces, and
well-drained uplands in east-central Illinois; the northern Mississippi
River floodplain; alluvial terraces in western Pennsylvania; lower
ravine slopes and uplands in central New York. Slippery elm can persist
on poorly drained soils that are occasionally flooded for periods of 2
or 3 months, but it does not reproduce or grow well if flooding is
frequent or prolonged [2,10,14,25,34].

In addition to those species in SAF cover types, common associates of
slippery elm include hickory (Carya spp.), box elder (Acer negundo),
blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), black walnut (Juglans nigra), hackberry
(Celtis occidentalis), and honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) [5,9,22].
  • 14. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]
  • 9. Curtis, John T. 1959. The vegetation of Wisconsin. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press. 657 p. [7116]
  • 2. Adams, Dwight E.; Anderson, Roger C. 1980. Species response to a moisture gradient in central Illinois forests. American Journal of Botany. 67(3): 381-392. [13295]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 22. Johnson, W. Carter. 1970. Trillium cernuum L. and Geranium maculatum L.: new for South Dakota. Rhodora. 72(792): 554. [19190]
  • 25. Martin, Christian J.; MacMillan, Paul C. 1982. Seven years of forest succession in Happy Valley, Jefferson County, Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science. 92: 197-206. [10369]
  • 34. Thomson, Paul M.; Anderson, Roger C. 1976. An ecological investigation of the Oakwood Bottoms Greentree Reservoir in Illinois. In: Fralish, James S.; Weaver, George T.; Schlesinger, Richard C., eds. Central hardwood forest conference: Proceedings of a meeting; 1976 October 17-19; Carbondale, IL. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University: 45-64. [3812]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the terms: hardwood, swamp

14 Northern pin oak
15 Red pine
17 Pin cherry
18 Paper birch
19 Gray birch - red maple
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
42 Bur oak
43 Bear oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
57 Yellow-poplar
58 Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
61 River birch - sycamore
62 Silver maple - American elm
64 Sassafras - persimmon
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
87 Sweet gum - yellow-poplar
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
95 Black willow
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
101 Baldcypress
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
108 Red maple
109 Hawthorn

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K074 Bluestem prairie
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K090 Live oak - sea oats
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie

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Soils and Topography

Slippery elm grows in soils common to the orders Mollisols and  Alfisols. It grows best on moist, rich soils of lower slopes,  streambanks, river terraces, and bottom land but it is often  found on much drier sites, particularly those of limestone origin  (11). Examples of sites on which it is, or has been, an important  species are flood plains, terraces, and welldrained uplands in  east-central Illinois; the northern Mississippi River flood  plain; alluvial terraces in western Pennsylvania; and bottom  land, lower ravine slopes, and upland in central New York.  Slippery elm, along with black cherry (Prunus serotina) and  red maple (Acer rubrum) are frequent invaders of tree  plantings following surface-mining (12).

    Slippery elm can persist on poorly drained soils that are  occasionally flooded for periods of 2 or 3 months but it does not  reproduce or grow well if flooding is frequent or prolonged. In  Illinois, on the flood plain of the Embarrass River, which is  usually flooded at least once each year but not for more than 5  days at a time, slippery elm is most abundant along the river  levee and at the edge of the flood plain where there is least  chance of prolonged flooding. In another strearnside forest,  slippery elm was classified as an important subdominant in parts  that were not flooded more than 1 percent of the time. In one  prairie grove remnant, slippery elm was most important in terms  of size and abundance on soils of the Argiudoll group, somewhat  less important on Hapludalfs, and least important on Haplaquolls.  On the northern Mississippi flood plain, slippery elm is found on  the better drained sites; in the upland forest of southern  Wisconsin, it is found on the moister sites.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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John H. Cooley

Source: Silvics of North America

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Climate

Annual precipitation generally increases from northwest to  southeast across the range of slippery elm (11). It averages  about 530 mm (21 in) along the North Dakota-Minnesota boundary  and about 2110 mm (83 in) at higher elevations in North Carolina.  Warm season precipitation ranges from 410 to 1040 mm. (16 to 41  in), and snowfall from very rare in the South to 254 cm (100 in)  or more in the North. Average annual temperature ranges from 4°  to 21° C (40° to 70° F), average January  temperature from -15° to 12° C (5° to 54° F),  and average July temperature from 16° to 27° C (60°  to 80° F). The length of the frost-free period ranges from  90 to 280 days.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Source: Silvics of North America

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Lower slopes, alluvial flood plains, stream banks, riverbanks, and wooded bottom lands; 0-600(-900)m.
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Dispersal

Establishment

Propagation by seeds: Slippery elm samaras can be gathered when green and ripe from April to June, by sweeping them up from the ground soon after they fall or by knocking the branches with poles and collecting seeds that fall onto tarps. The seeds should then be air-dried for several days, but too much drying can reduce germination. Sow the seeds in flats as soon as they are mature. Sow them with their wings, as de-winging them damages them. There are approximately 90 seeds per gram. Seeds sometimes show dormancy and if so, need stratification. They should be stratified at 41° F for 60-90 days in a moist medium. If storing the seeds before planting, for best results, store them at low moisture content in sealed containers at cool temperatures. Seedlings are susceptible to damping off. In the seedling stage, transplant them into larger containers. The seeds can also be directly planted in the garden and the tree grows in a range of soil types, but prefers moist, rich, bottomland soils. This species can become a weed as it tends to inhabit unkempt shrub borders, hedges, fence-rows, and other open ground. It is susceptible to Dutch elm disease, but not to the degree of American elm.

Propagation by cuttings: take cuttings in early summer and root with IBA treatment.

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The caterpillars of the butterflies Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak), Polygonia comma (Eastern Comma), and Polygonia interrogationis (Question Mark) feed on the foliage of elms (Ulmus spp.), as do the caterpillars of many moths (see Moth Table). The moth caterpillar Bomolocha abalienalis (White-Lined Bomolocha) prefers Slippery Elm as a food source. Several leafhoppers suck juices from the foliage of Slippery Elm (see Leafhopper Table); the leafhoppers Eratoneura affinis, Eratoneura basilaris, Eratoneura bigemina, and Eratoneura bispinosa prefer this tree as a host plant. Other insect feeders include Saperda tridentata (Elm Borer) and other wood-boring beetles (see Wood-Boring Beetle Table), Xanthogaleruca luteola (Elm Leaf Beetle) and other leaf beetles, Eriosoma americana (Woolly Elm Aphid) and other aphids, scale insects, Corythucha ulmi (Elm Lace Bug), the larvae of Cimbex americana (Elm Sawfly), the larvae of Magdalis armicollis (Red Elm Bark Weevil), stinkbugs, and other insects (see Insect Table). Sometimes these insects become sufficiently abundant to seriously damage elm trees. Some vertebrate animals use elms as a food source. Either the seeds or buds are eaten by such birds as the Wood Duck, Wild Turkey, Prairie Chicken, Ring-Necked Pheasant, Carolina Chickadee, Purple Finch, Eastern Goldfinch, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Clay-Colored Sparrow, and House Sparrow. The Fox Squirrel, Red Squirrel, and Eastern Chipmunk also eat the seeds. The value of these seeds is increased because they are available during the late spring when mature seeds are in short supply. The sap of Slippery Elm is consumed by the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, while the twigs and foliage are eaten by White-Tailed Deer. When Slippery Elm is located near a river or other wetlands, its wood is one of the food sources of the Beaver. Large elm trees, which have become increasing rare, are sometimes used as nesting habitat for such birds as the Red-Shouldered Hawk, Baltimore Oriole, and Warbling Vireo. Photographic Location
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Slippery Elm in Illinois

Ulmus rubra (Slippery Elm)
(honeybees collect pollen; this tree is wind-pollinated; this observation is from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera cp fq

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Associated Forest Cover

Slippery elm grows over such a wide range of climatic, soil, and  topographic conditions that its associates include more than 60  deciduous tree species. It is a common associate in the forest  cover types Black Oak-American Elm-Red Maple (Society of American  Foresters Type 39), Hawthorn (Type 109), White Oak-Black Oak-  Northern Red Oak (Type 52), and River Birch-Sycamore (Type 61)  (5). It probably also appears in Silver Maple-American Elm (Type  62) and as an occasional tree in several other cover types.  Common associates in uplands include bur, chinkapin, white,  black, and northern red oaks (Quercus macrocarpa, Q.  muehlenbergii, Q. alba, Q. velutina, and Q. rubra); shagbark,  bitternut, mockernut, and pignut hickories (Carya ovata, C.  cordiformis, C. tomentosa, and C. glabra); sugar,  red, and silver maples (Acer saccharum, A. rubrum, and A.  saccharinum); boxelder (A. negundo); white ash  (Fraxinus americana); American elm (Ulmus americana);  blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica); basswood (Tilia  americana); black cherry; black walnut (Juglans nigra);  hackberry (Celtis occidentalis); and honeylocust (Gleditsia  triacanthos). On periodically flooded lowlands slippery elm  commonly occurs with silver and red maple, American elm, eastern  cottonwood (Populus deltoides), sycamore (Platanus  occidentalis), hackberry, blackgum, and honeylocust.

    Common understory species of slippery elm stands include  blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis); black raspberry (R.  occidentalis); prickly, hairystem, and Missouri gooseberries  (Ribes cynosbati, R. hirtellum, and R. missouriense);  roundleaf, alternate-leaf, redosier, gray, and flowering  dogwoods (Cornus rugosa, C. alternifolia, C. stolonifera, C.  racemosa, and C. florida); beaked hazel (Corylus  cornuta); American hazelnut (C. americana); Atlantic  leatherwood (Dirca palustris); ninebark (Physocarpus  spp.); climbing bittersweet (Celastrus scandens);  Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia); grape  (Vitis spp.); American and redberry elders (Sambucus  canadensis and S. pubens); nannyberry (Viburnum  lentago); blackhaw (V. prunifolium); witch-hazel  (Hamamelis virginiana); poison-ivy (Toxicodendron  radicans); American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia); coralberry  (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus); wild hydrangea (Hydrangea  arborescens); eastern burningbush (Euonymus  atropurpureus); and trailing wahoo (E. obovatus)  (4,11).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Excluding insect species that feed only  on American elm, more than 125 insect species feed on trees in  the elm genus (1). Bark beetles and wood borers generally cause  little damage to vigorous trees although some can ultimately kill  weakened or diseased trees. They also introduce stain and rot  organisms into dead trees and manufactured products. The spread  of Dutch elm disease is the most detrimental effect of bark   beetle feeding. The smaller European elm bark beetle (Scolytus  multistriatus) is the primary vector of this disease in the  United States, but the native elm bark beetle (Hylurgopinus  rufipes, Scolytus mali, and Xylosandrus germanus) are  also able to transmit it.

    Only a few defoliators feed exclusively on elms and even fewer  feed exclusively on slippery elm. The elm calligrapha (Calligrapha  scalaris), the elm leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta luteola), the  larger elm leaf beetle (Monocesta coryli), Canarsia  ulmiarrosorella, an elm casebearer (Coleophora  u1mifoliella), Nerice bidentata, and one species of the genus  Macroxyela usually feed only on elms. Slippery elm is  especially favored by the larger elm leaf beetle. Elms are  preferred hosts for Dasychira basiflava, fall cankerworm  (Alsophila pometaria), spring cankerworm (Paleacrita  vernata), whitemarked tussock moth (Orgyia leucostigma),  the yellownecked caterpillar (Datana ministra), and  the elm sawfly (Cimbex americana). Although larvae of the  gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) will feed on leaves of  slippery elm, it is not a preferred host.

    Sucking insects that feed exclusively on elm or prefer elm to most  other species include elm cockscombgall aphid (Colopha  ulmicola), Tetraneura u1mi, European elm scale (Gossyparia  spuria), elm scurfy scale (Chionaspis americana), elm  leaf aphid (Tinocallis ulmifolii), woolly apple aphid  (Eriosoma lanigerum), and woolly elm bark aphid (E.  rileyi). The gall aphid (Kaltenbachiella u1mifusa) is  limited to slippery elm. The whitebanded elm leafhopper (Scaphoideus  luteolus) is the principal vector of elm phloem necrosis.

    Slippery elm has many of the same diseases as American elm (6). It  is attacked and killed by Dutch elm disease caused by the fungus  Ceratocystis ulmi. It is also killed by elm yellows or  elm phloem necrosis (a mycoplasma-like organism) throughout much  of its range. These two diseases are so virulent and widespread  that slippery elm seldom reaches commercial size and volume as a  forest tree and it is being replaced as a street tree in many  localities. A dieback caused by Dothiorella ulmi is  widespread from New England to Mississippi and has often been  confused with Dutch elm disease. A leaf spot caused by Gnomonia  ulmea, brown wood rot caused by Pleurotus ulmarius, white  flakey rot caused by P. ostreatus, ustulina butt  rot caused by Ustulina vulgaris, slimeflux and wetwood  caused by Erwinia nimipressuralis, and nectria canker  caused by Nectria galligena all attack slippery elm. In a  survey in Davidson County, TN, infestations of mistletoe (Phoradendron  flavescens) were more numerous on slippery elm than on any  other species except American elm and white ash.

    Slippery elm is also damaged by several other agents. In mixed  hardwood stands, bark stripping by deer is more frequent on  slippery elm than on other species. Bark stripping occurred most  frequently on stems of saplings and on roots of pole-sized  trees(9). Slippery elm also suffers crown breakage following  severe ice storms in Wisconsin (3).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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General Ecology

Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: root crown

Young slippery elm sprouts from the root crown following fire [1].

The Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provides information on
postfire responses of several plant species, including slippery elm,
that was not available when this species review was originally written.
  • 1. Abrams, Marc D. 1986. Ecological role of fire in gallery forests in eastern Kansas. In: Koonce, Andrea L., ed. Prescribed burning in the Midwest: state-of-the-art: Proceedings of a symposium; 1986 March 3-6; Stevens Point, WI. Stevens Point, WI: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources, Fire Science Center: 73-80. [16271]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the term: moderate-severity fire

Information regarding the fire effects on slippery elm is scant.
Literature suggests that American elm is a fire decreaser [3,4,9]. Low-
or moderate-severity fire top-kills American elm trees up to sapling
size and wounds larger trees. Slippery elm is probably affected by fire
in the same way due to its similiar morphology.
  • 9. Curtis, John T. 1959. The vegetation of Wisconsin. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press. 657 p. [7116]
  • 3. Auclair, Allan N.; Cottam, Grant. 1971. Dynamics of black cherry (Prunus serotina Erhr.) in southern Wisconsin oak forests. Ecological Monographs. 41(2): 153-177. [8102]
  • 4. Beck, Donald E. 1988. Clearcutting and other regeneration options for upland hardwoods. In: Proceedings, 16th annual hardwood symposium of the Hardwood Research Council; 1988 May 15-18; Chashiers, NC. Vol. 16. [Place of publication unknown]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the term: secondary colonizer

Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: root crown, top-kill

Fire rarely occurs in the moist areas where slippery elm typically
grows. When fire does occur and conditions are dry, slippery elm
decreases. Wind- and water-dispersed seed are important in the
establishment of slippery elm following fire [5,10]. Young slippery elm
will sprout from the root crown following top-kill by fire [1,28].
  • 1. Abrams, Marc D. 1986. Ecological role of fire in gallery forests in eastern Kansas. In: Koonce, Andrea L., ed. Prescribed burning in the Midwest: state-of-the-art: Proceedings of a symposium; 1986 March 3-6; Stevens Point, WI. Stevens Point, WI: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources, Fire Science Center: 73-80. [16271]
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 28. Reuter, D. Dayton. 1986. Effects of prescribed burning, cutting and torching on shrubs in a sedge meadow wetland. In: Koonce, Andrea L., ed. Prescribed burning in the Midwest: state-of-the-art: Proceedings of a symposium; 1986 March 3-6; Stevens Point, WI. Stevens Point, WI: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources, Fire Science Center: 108-115. [16278]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: litter, root crown

Seeds of slippery elm are larger than those of many of the native elms.
Dispersal is by gravity and wind [10,16].

Seeds sometimes show dormancy; seedlings are susceptible to damping off.
Seedlings become established under a wide variety of conditions.
Mineral soil seedbeds are best, but seeds germinate and survive in
forest litter or among herbaceous plants [6,10].

Slippery elm sprouts readily from the stump or root crown. Seedlings
produces sprouts from rhizomes. Slippery elm also reproduces by
layering. Rootstocks of slippery elm are grafted to hybrid elms [10].
  • 6. Bray, J. Roger. 1956. Gap phase replacement in a maple-basswood forest. Ecology. 37(3): 598-600. [13003]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 16. George, David W.; Fischer, Burnell C. 1989. The effect of site and age on tree regeneration in young upland hardwood clearcuts. In: Rink, George; Budelsky, Carl A., eds. Proceedings, 7th central hardwood conference; 1989 March 5-8; Carbondale, IL. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-132. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 40-47. [9365]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: phanerophyte

Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: tree

Tree

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

Facultative Seral Species.

Slippery elm is one of the more shade-tolerant species [4]. It is much
more tolerant than quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) but slightly less
tolerant than sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Reproduction is erratic
under fully stocked stands. In a river terrace forest in east-central
Illinois, slippery elm was present in most size classes, but no
seedlings were present. A nearby upland coppice, however, contained
numerous slippery elm seedlings. Slippery elm is frequently a component
of the subcanopy [10,20,29].
  • 4. Beck, Donald E. 1988. Clearcutting and other regeneration options for upland hardwoods. In: Proceedings, 16th annual hardwood symposium of the Hardwood Research Council; 1988 May 15-18; Chashiers, NC. Vol. 16. [Place of publication unknown]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 20. Hill, John P.; Dickmann, Donald I. 1988. A comparison of three methods for naturally reproducing oak in southern Michigan. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry. 5(2): 113-117. [14482]
  • 29. Smith, H. Clay; Rosier, Robert L.; Hammack, K. P.. 1976. Reproduction 12 years after seed-tree harvest cutting in Appalachian hardwoods. Res. Pap. NE-350. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 11 p. [10887]

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Reaction to Competition

On sites to which it is well  adapted, slippery elm is one of the more shade-tolerant species.  It is much more tolerant than quaking aspen but slightly less  tolerant than sugar maple. Reproduction is erratic under fully  stocked stands. In a river terrace forest in east-central  Illinois, slippery elm was present in most size classes but there  were no seedlings, whereas a nearby upland coppice stand  contained numerous slippery elm seedlings. It is most frequently  a component of the subcanopy. Overall, it is classed as tolerant  of shade.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

The flowers open before the leaves, from February to May, depending on
weather and location. Seeds ripen from April to June and are dispersed
by wind and water as soon as they are ripe [10].
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]

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Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering late winter-early spring.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Reproduction

Vegetative Reproduction

Slippery elm sprouts readily from  stumps. During its seedling stage it produces sprouts from  rhizomes that sometimes form reproduction less than 0.6 m (2 ft)  tall in patches 9.1 rn (30 ft) or more in diameter. Roots can be  formed in 1 year by layering. Rootstocks of slippery elm are  often used to propagate hybrid elms.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Source: Silvics of North America

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Seedling Development

Seeds sometimes show dormancy and  seedlings are susceptible to damping off. Germination is epigeal  (2). Seedlings become established under a wide variety of  conditions. Mineral soil seedbeds are best but seeds germinate  and survive in forest litter or among grasses and other  herbaceous plants. In southeastern Minnesota woodlots the species  reproduces more successfully than any other except aspen (Populus  spp.) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera). In  Ogle County, IL, it was the third most important tree species on  abandoned pastureland. On gravel bars along the Jacks Fork and  Current Rivers in Missouri, slippery elm does not become an  important stand component until the bars have already been  invaded by pioneer species such as water-willow (Justica spp.),  Coastal Plain willow (Salix caroliniana), and eastern  cottonwood.

    Juvenile growth of slippery elm is rapid in the open or under  light shade and slightly exceeds that of American elm. In  southeastern Minnesota, trees 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter were 7 to  18 years old, depending on severity of competition.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Source: Silvics of North America

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Seed Production and Dissemination

Seeds of slippery elm  are larger than many of the native elms. They range from 77,200  to 119,000/kg (35,000 to 54,000/lb) and average 90,400/kg  (41,000/lb). Dispersal is by gravity and wind (2).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Source: Silvics of North America

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Flowering and Fruiting

Slippery elm has inconspicuous,  perfect flowers that appear in the spring before the leaves, from  February to May, depending on weather and location. Seeds ripen  from April to June and are dispersed by wind as soon as they are  ripe. Large crops are borne every 2 to 4 years, beginning after  age 15 (2).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

The height growth of slippery elm is  most rapid in trees 20 cm. (8 in) or less in d.b.h. In a  streamside forest in Illinois, slippery elm increased 10 cm (0.4  in) in d.b.h. from 25 cm (9.7 in) to 26 cm (10.1 in) in 11 years.  In a stand in Polk County, WI, suppressed and intermediate trees  grew 11 mm (0.43 in) while codominant and dominant trees grew 2.9  cm (1.14 in) in 8 years.

    On average sites, slippery elm reaches 18.3 to 21.3 m (60 to 70  ft) in height and 61 to 91 cm (24 to 36 in) in d.b.h. On the best  sites individuals may reach 41.1 m (135 ft) in height and 122 cm  (48 in) in d.b.h. The largest living specimen, located in Perry  County, PA, is 27.4 rn (90 ft) tall and 193 cm (76 in) in d.b.h.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

Morphological observations that the Ulmus genera is  composed of two distinct groups were confirmed with analyses of  leaf flavonoids (13). Slippery and American elm, the unwinged  species, produce kaempferol and quercetin, while the winged  species produce myrictein. No studies of genetic diversity have  been reported for slippery elm.

    Because this species is so widely distributed, ecotypes and races  probably exist. Like those of most elm species, vegetative cells  of naturally growing slippery elm contain 28 chromosomes (14  pairs) and there are no genetic barriers to gene exchange among  diploid elm species (10). Slippery elm is commonly crossed with  Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila). The F, hybrids tend to have  morphological characteristics intermediate between parents and  grow faster than Siberian elm but the susceptibility of these  hybrids, as well as three species combined with Japanese elm (U.  japonica), to Dutch elm disease is a function of the  proportion of slippery elm genes present (7). Pollination of  Chinese elm (U. parvifolia) and September elm (U.  serotina) with slippery elm pollen have produced hybrid  seedlings.

    Natural hybrids of rock elm and slippery elm have been observed in  Sawyer County, WI, and along streets in Columbia, MO. Ecological  isolation probably accounts for the limited occurrence of natural  hybrids of these two species (11).

    A triploid elm has been reported that was determined to be an F,  seedling of Siberian elm x slippery elm.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ulmus rubra

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the term: tree

Slippery elm is susceptible to many of the same diseases as American
elm. It is attacked and killed by Dutch elm disease, caused by the
fungus Ceratocystis ulmi [5,33]. Throughout much of its range, it is
also killed by elm yellows or elm phloem necrosis. These two diseases
are so virulent and widespread that slippery elm seldom reaches
commercial size and volume as a forest tree, and it is being replaced as
a street tree in many localities. In mixed-hardwood stands, bark
stripping by deer is more frequent on stems of saplings and on roots of
pole-sized trees [10].
  • 5. Bey, Calvin F. 1990. Ulmus americana L. American elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Agric. Handb. 654. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 801-807. [18959]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 33. Swingle, Roger U. 1942. Phloem necrosis: A virus disease of the American elm. Circular No. 640. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 8 p. [4761]

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

This species is somewhat available through native plant nurseries within its range.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

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Cover Value

More info for the term: cover

Slippery elm trees provide thermal cover and nesting sites for a variety
of primary and secondary cavity nesters [17,19].
  • 17. Gilmer, David S.; Ball, I. J.; Cowardin, Lewis M.; [and others]
  • 19. Hardin, Kimberly I.; Evans, Keith E. 1977. Cavity nesting bird habitat in the oak-hickory forests--a review. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-30. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 23 p. [13859]

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Wood Products Value

More info for the term: tree

Slippery elm is not an important lumber tree. The wood is considered
inferior to that of American elm (U. americana) even though both are
mixed and sold together as soft elm [26,35]. Slippery elm is used in
the manufacture of boxes, baskets, crates, and barrels [37].
  • 37. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 26. Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. 1953. Forest tree planting. 2d ed. Bull. No. R 1. Toronto, Canada: Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, Division of Reforestation. 68 p. [12130]
  • 35. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 1974. Wood handbook: wood as an engineering material. Agric. Handb. No. 72. Washington, DC. 415 p. [16826]

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Other uses and values

The bark of slippery elm contains a mucilaginous substance that was used
as a treatment for coughs and diarrhea by the early settlers. It has
also been used as a street ornamental, but its use is limited due to
Dutch elm disease [10,32,37].
  • 37. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 32. Hodgkinson, Harmon S. 1975. Evaluation of winterfat in Washington. Journal of Range Management. 28(2): 138-141. [1174]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

The seeds of slippery elm are eaten by birds and small mammals. Deer
and rabbits browse the twigs [10,31].
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]
  • 31. Strole, Todd A.; Anderson, Roger C. 1992. White-tailed deer browsing: species preferences and implications for central Illinois forests. Natural Areas Journal. 12(3): 139-144. [19494]

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Special Uses

Slippery elm wood, although considered inferior to American elm,  is used commercially for the same products: furniture, paneling,  and containers. The seeds are eaten by birds and small animals.  Deer and rabbits browse the twigs.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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John H. Cooley

Source: Silvics of North America

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Uses

Ethnobotanic: This tree was valued for its bark, which supplied material for the sides of winter houses and roofs of the Meskwaki. The inner bark was used for cordage by many tribes. The Menomini gathered the bark, boiled it, and used it for making fiber bags and large storage baskets. The Dakota, Omaha-Ponca, Winnebago, and Pawnee used the inner bark fiber for making ropes and cords. Slippery elm was also used extensively as a medicine. The Iroquois scraped the bark of the tree and used it in combination with other plants to treat infected and swollen glands. The inner bark was made into an eye wash for sore eyes. The Menomini used the inner bark in a tea and it was taken as a physic. The inner bark was used by the Menomini and the Meskwaki in a poultice to heal sores on the body. Meskwaki women drank a tea of the bark to make childbirth easier. The tree also was used by the Ojibwe to treat sore throats. The fresh inner bark was boiled and the Dakota, Omaha-Ponca, and other tribes drank the resulting decoction as a laxative. The indigenous people generously taught some of these uses to early non-Indian settlers. Today slippery elm is found in health food stores and is used to relieve sore throats, coughs and other bronchial ailments, and used as a laxative. The wood is used commercially for making furniture, paneling, and containers.

Wildlife: Birds often nest in the thick elm foliage, and the seeds and buds are food to songbirds, game birds, and squirrels. Deer and rabbits browse on the twigs.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Wikipedia

Ulmus rubra

Ulmus rubra, the Slippery Elm, is a species of elm native to eastern North America (from southeast North Dakota, east to Maine and southern Quebec, south to northernmost Florida, and west to eastern Texas). Other common names include Red Elm, Gray Elm, Soft Elm, Moose Elm, and Indian Elm.

Classification[edit]

Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg, who named Ulmus rubra in 1793. Portrait by Peale, 1810.

This widespread, common North American forest tree species was named several times, with Pennsylvania botanist Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg's 1793 name Ulmus rubra now accepted as the first formally published. The slightly later name U. fulva, published by French botanist André Michaux in 1803, is used in much of the older literature, and is still widely used in dietary-supplement and alternative-medicine information.

Ulmus rubra has almost universally been treated taxonomically as a distinct species without named subspecies or varieties. However, it was sometimes considered a variety of the American Elm, Ulmus americana var. rubra, in the late 18th century. The species is similar to American Elm (U. americana) in general appearance, but more closely related to the European Wych Elm (U. glabra), which has a very similar flower structure.

The yoke of the Liberty Bell, a symbol of the independance of the United States, was made from Slippery Elm.

Description[edit]

Ulmus rubra is a deciduous tree which can grow to 65 feet (20 m) in height with a 20-inch (50 cm) d.b.h. trunk. The tree's more upright branching pattern differs from the deliquescent branching of the American elm. Its heartwood is reddish-brown, giving the tree its alternative common name 'Red Elm'. The leaves are 4-6 in (10–18 cm) long and have a rough texture (especially above), coarsely double-serrate margins, acuminate apices and oblique bases. The perfect, apetalous, wind-pollinated flowers are produced before the leaves in early spring, usually in clusters of 10–20. The fruit is an oval winged samara about 3/4 in (20 mm) long that contains a single, central seed. Ulmus rubra may be distinguished from American elm by the hairiness of its buds and twigs (both smooth on the American elm) and by its very short-stalked flowers.

Pests and diseases[edit]

The tree is reputedly less susceptible to Dutch elm disease than other species of American elms,[2] but is severely damaged by the Elm Leaf Beetle (Xanthogaleruca luteola).[3][unreliable source?]

Ecology[edit]

Ulmus rubra thrives in moisture-rich uplands, but it will also grow in dry, intermediate soils.[4]

Hybrids[edit]

In the central United States, native Ulmus rubra hybridizes in the wild with the Siberian elm (U. pumila),[5] which was introduced in the early 20th century and which has spread widely since then, contributing to conservation concerns for the former species.[6]

Cultivation[edit]

The species has been introduced to Europe and Australasia.

Hybrid cultivars[edit]

U. rubra had limited success as a hybrid parent in the 1960s, resulting in the cultivars 'Coolshade', 'Lincoln', 'Rosehill', and probably 'Willis'.[7] In later years, it was also used in the Wisconsin program to produce 'Repura' and 'Revera' [8] although neither is known to have been released to commerce.

Etymology[edit]

The epithet rubra (red) alludes to the tree's reddish wood, whilst the common name "slippery elm" alludes to the mucilaginous inner bark.

Accessions[edit]

North America
Europe
Australasia

Uses[edit]

Medicinal[edit]

Ulmus rubra has various traditional medicinal uses. The mucilagenous inner bark of the tree has long been used as a demulcent, and is still produced commercially for this purpose in the United States with approval for sale as a nutritional supplement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[9] Sometimes leaves are dried and ground into a powder, then made into a tea. Both Ulmus rubra gruel and tea may help to soothe the digestive tract.[10] Tea made of the inner bark is considered to be beneficial for psoriasis because of its demulcent effect on intestines. It is however not recommended for women during pregnancy.[11] Slippery elm may decrease the absorption of prescription medications.[10]

Other uses[edit]

The wood of the Ulmus rubra is used for the hubs of wagon wheels, as it is very shock resistant owing to the interlocking grain.[12] The wood is sometimes used to make bows for archery. For this use the wood may be referred to as red elm.

The tree's fibrous inner bark produces a strong and durable fiber that can be spun into thread, twine, or rope[12] useful for bow strings, ropes, jewellery, clothing, snowshoe bindings, woven mats, and even some musical instruments.[citation needed]

Once cured, the wood is also excellent for starting fires with the bow-drill method, as it grinds into a very fine flammable powder under friction.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ulmus rubra information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  2. ^ "Ulmus rubra". Illinois State Museum. 
  3. ^ http://www.sunshinenursery.com/survey.htm
  4. ^ "Ulmus rubra Muhl". Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry. 
  5. ^ Zalapa, J. E.; Brunet, J.; Guries, R. P. (2008). "Isolation and characterization of microsatellite markers for red elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl.) and cross-species amplification with Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila L.)". Molecular Ecology Resources 8 (1): 109–12. doi:10.1111/j.1471-8286.2007.01805.x. PMID 21585729. 
  6. ^ 'Conservation status of Red Elm (U. rubra) in the north-central United States', elm2013.ipp.cnr.it/downloads/book_of_abstracts.pdfCached p.33-35
  7. ^ Green, P S (24 July 1964). "Registration of cultivar names in Ulmus" (PDF). Arnoldia 24 (6–8): 41–46. 
  8. ^ Santamour, Frank S; Susan E Bentz (May 1995). "Updated checklist of elm (Ulmus) cultivars for use in North America". Journal of Arboriculture 21 (3): 122–131. 
  9. ^ Braun, Lesley; Cohen, Marc (2006). Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone. p. 586. ISBN 978-0-7295-3796-4.  , quote:"Although Slippery Elm has not been scientifically investigated, the FDA has approved it as a safe demulcent substance."
  10. ^ a b "Bile reflux: Alternative medicine - MayoClinic.com". www.mayoclinic.com. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  11. ^ Pagano, John OA. Healing Psoriasis-The natural alternative. Wiley. 
  12. ^ a b Werthner, William B. (1935). Some American Trees: An intimate study of native Ohio trees. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. xviii + 398. 
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Notes

Comments

Scabrous-leaved Ulmus rubra is often confused with U . americana . Where ranges coincide, U . rubra may freely intergrade with Ulmus pumila Linnaeus, a widely introduced species. 

 The red-rust, mucilaginous inner bark of Ulmus rubra is distinctive; its sticky slime gives this tree its common name of slippery elm. Native American tribes used Ulmus rubra for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, including inducing labor, soothing stomach and bowels, treating dysentary, coughs, colds, and catarrhs, dressing burns and sores, and as a laxative (D. E. Moerman 1986). Various preparations utilizing it are still marketed.

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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

The currently accepted scientific name for slippery elm is Ulmus rubra
Muhl. [24]. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms.

Slippery elm is commonly crossed with Siberian elm (U. pumilia).
Hybrids of rock elm (U. thomasii) and slippery elm have been observed in
Sawyer County, Wisconsin, and along streets in Columbia, Missouri [10].
  • 24. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
  • 10. Cooley, John H.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 1990. Ulmus rubra Muhl. slippery elm. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 812-816. [20818]

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Common Names

slippery elm
red elm
gray elm
soft elm

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