Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Coladonato, Milo. 1993. Ulmus rubra. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for slippery elm is Ulmus rubra
Muhl. . 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 .
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
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].
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
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
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
14 Great Plains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
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
SAF COVER TYPES :
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
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
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
108 Red maple
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
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 .
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].
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
Slippery elm trees provide thermal cover and nesting sites for a variety
of primary and secondary cavity nesters [17,19].
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
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].
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
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 .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
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].
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
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 .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
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].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species.
Slippery elm is one of the more shade-tolerant species . 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].
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
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 .
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
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].
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
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.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Young slippery elm sprouts from the root crown following fire .
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.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
SPECIES: Ulmus rubra
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11. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern
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12. Elias, Thomas S. 1970. The genera of Ulmaceae in the southeastern United
States. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 51: 18-40. 
13. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and
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14. Farrell, John D.; Ware, Stewart. 1991. Edaphic factors and forest
vegetation in the piedmont of Virgina. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical
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14. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others].
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