Common Name: red elm, slippery elm

Scientific Name: 
Family: Ulmaceae
Genus: Ulmus
Species: U. rubra

Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 40 to 60 ft
Width: 30 to 50 ft

Common Characteristics: ​

Red elm, also known as slippery elm, is a large tree, reaching 40-60 feet at maturity with a vase-shaped form. Red elm is a fast growing tree. The leaves (4-8 inches long) are alternately arranged, simple, broad oblong to obovate in shape with serrate margins, and dark green in color. The leaves have a sandpaper texture above and are hairy on the underside. The leaf has an unequal base. Fall color is yellow. In the spring, small reddish-green flowers are visible and develop into fruits that mature in April and May. The fruit is a single seed surrounded by a circular wafer-like wing (samara). Mature bark is gray with furrows. The inner bark is red and sticky. The young twigs are green and hairy, but become gray or gray-brown. The buds are red and hairy. 

Where It Grows:

Red elm prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soils. It grows best in areas such as stream banks and floodplains. It is tolerant of light shade, urban pollution, wet and dry sites, road salt, and alkaline and clay soils. In addition, red elm is tolerant of black walnut toxicity. 

How It's Used:

Due to its susceptibility to Dutch elm disease, this species is not often used as a landscape tree.

Ecosystem Services:

The wildlife that utilize red elms are songbirds, migrant birds, small mammals, and browsers. 

Where It Is Native To:

Red elm is native to central and southern United States.


Red elm is susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Other diseases that can affect red elm are phloem necrosis and wetwood. Other issues are wilts, rots, cankers, and leaf spots. Red elm can be affected by insects such as borers, beetles, leaf miner, caterpillars, mealy bugs, and scale. 

Other Details: 

To help avoid the transmission of Dutch elm disease, it is recommended not to prune elm trees from mid-April to mid-October.


Minnesota Wildflowers

Missouri Botanical Garden

The Morton Arboretum