slippery elm

(Ulmus rubra)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

slippery elm

NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Wetland
Indicator
Status

Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland

Midwest

FAC - Facultative

Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative

Nativity

Native

Occurrence

 

Habitat

Moist. Deciduous forests, stream banks, floodplains. Full sun or light shade.

Photo by Randy
Flowering

Late March to late mid-May

 
Flower Color

 

 
Height

50 to 70

 

Identification

This is a fast growing deciduous tree in the Mountain Elm group. In Minnesota mature trees are usually 50 to 70 tall. Large individuals can reach up to 135 in height and 48 in diameter at breast height. It was once a long-lived tree, often reaching 200 years. However, the wilt fungus Dutch Elm Disease (Ceratocystis ulmi) usually kills most trees before they are 30 years old. Saplings are immune to the disease.

The trunk divides at or below the base of the crown into a few large, upright, widely spreading limbs. The principle branches curve upwards then spread out. The crown is broad and flat-topped.

The bark on young trees is brownish gray and corky. On older trees it is reddish-brown, shallowly fissured with flat, nearly vertical scaly ridges. In cross section outer bark layers are entirely reddish brown.

The twigs are grayish-brown to dark gray, moderately stout, and hairy, with prominent lenticels. The buds are dark reddish-brown, blunt, and covered with conspicuous orange or reddish-brown hairs.

The leaves are deciduous, alternate, and simple, and are attached to the twig on a 3 16 long leaf stalk. The blades are thick, egg-shaped or inversely egg-shaped, 3 to 6 long, and 2 to 3 wide. They taper gradually to a point at the tip with concave sides along the tip. The base is asymmetrical, rounded on one side, tapering on the other. The upper surface is dark green, hairy, and very rough. The lower surface is paler green and hairy, often fuzzy. The margins are singly toothed on the lower half or quarter, doubly toothed from there to the tip, the major teeth deeper and forward pointing. There are about 15 prominent veins on each side of the central axis. The veins are straight and end in a large tooth. Several veins are forked. In the fall the leaves turn yellow.

The flowers have both male and female parts. They are borne in small, dense clusters of 8 to 20 almost stalkless flowers on previous year’s twigs. They appear in late March to late mid-May before the leaves. They have no petals, 5 to 9 stamens with reddish anthers, and pink reddish stigmas.

The fruit is a samara consisting of a dry, flattened, papery, almost round, to in diameter wing surrounding a seed seed case containing 1 seed. It is hairy on the surface but does not have a fringe of hairs on the margin. The tip is shallowly notched. There is a line that extends from the base to the notch at the tip. The wing is not inflated and the seed case is distinct from the wing.

 
Similar
Species

American elm (Ulmus americana) branches are gracefully spreading. The buds are appressed to the twig, sharp pointed, are flattened. No more than 2 or 3 leaf veins are forked. Flowers and fruits are on long stalks. The samara is deeply notched and hairless except for a fringe of hairs along the margin. It is not inflated, and the seed case is distinct.

Rock elm (Ulmus thomasii) trunk is distinct almost to the top of the tree. The branches are often crooked and gnarled. Older twigs have prominent corky ridges. The leaves are shiny and smooth. The margins have incurved teeth. The leaf veins are rarely forked. The buds are sharp pointed. Flowers and fruits are in clusters with a central stem. The samara is pointed, shallowly notched, and hairy, with an additional fringe of hairs along the margin. It is inflated, the seed case not distinct.


Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 28.

Record

The champion slippery elm in Minnesota is on private property in Golden Valley, in Hennepin County. In 2014 it was measured at 80 tall and 228 in circumference (72½ in diameter).

 
Comments

 


Taxonomy

Family:

Ulmaceae (elm)

 

Genus:

Ulmus

 

Subgenus:

Ulmus

 

Section:

Ulmus

 
Synonyms

Ulmus fulva

 
Common
Names

gray elm

red elm

slippery elm

soft elm

water elm


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

catkin

A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.

 

lenticel

A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.

 

samara

A dry fruit consisting of a seed attached to a papery wing; one seeded in Elms and Ashes, two-seeded in Maples.

 

simple leaf

A leaf that is not divided into leaflets, though it may be deeply lobed or cleft.

       

Visitor Photos

   
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Randy


Slippery elm in an old growth grove near MN/IA border, Nov. 2016

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Slippery elm trunk

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Slippery elm bark

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MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos

   
       
       
       

 

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Slideshows

   
  Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)
Bill Keim
 
  Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)  

 

slideshow

     

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Other Videos

 
  Trees with Don Leopold - slippery elm
ESFTV
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 27, 2012

 

 
     
  How to find the right tree (Slippery Elm tree identification) when hunting for morel mushrooms.
Craig Smedley
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 25, 2013

This shows the perfect slippery elm tree that you look for when hunting for morel mushrooms. Also the American Elm and Yellow Poplar are good trees to look for in the Midwest.

 
     

 

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