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Ulmus rubra
Mature Slippery Elm
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Ulmaceae
Genus: Ulmus
Species: U. rubra
Binomial name
Ulmus rubra
The native range of slippery elm.
  • Ulmus americana L. var. rubra Aiton
  • Ulmus crispa Willd.
  • Ulmus dimidiata Raf.
  • Ulmus fulva Michx., Loudon, Bentley & Trimen, Sarg.
  • Ulmus pinguis Raf.
  • Ulmus pubescens Walter?, Sudworth, Pinchot

The Slippery Elm Ulmus rubra[2] is a species of elm native to eastern North America (from southeast North Dakota, east to southern Quebec, south to northernmost Florida, and west to eastern Texas). It is similar to American Elm in general appearance, but more closely related to the European Wych Elm, which has a very similar flower structure. Other common names include Red Elm, Gray Elm, Soft Elm, Moose Elm and Indian Elm.



The Slippery Elm is a deciduous tree which can grow to 20 m in height with a 50 cm d.b.h.. The tree has a different branching pattern to the other American species, and its heartwood is reddish-brown, giving the tree its alternative common name 'Red Elm'. The leaves are 10–18 cm long and have a rough texture, coarsely double-serrate margin and an oblique base. The perfect wind-pollinated apetalous flowers are produced before the leaves in early spring, usually in clusters of 10–20. The fruit is an oval winged samara 20 mm long and containing a single, central seed. Slippery Elm may be distinguished from American Elm by the hairiness of the buds and twigs (both smooth on the American Elm) and by its very short-stalked flowers.

Pests and diseases

The tree is reputedly less susceptible to Dutch elm disease than other American elms, but is severely damaged by the Elm Leaf Beetle Xanthogaleruca luteola [1].


Slippery Elm grows well in moisture-rich uplands, but it will also grow in dry, intermediate soils[3].



Slippery Elm is a valuable tree that has many traditional uses. The inner bark can be ground into a nutrient-rich gruel, off which one can solely survive for a short period. The bark also contains a mucilage that is used as a remedy for sore throats. Sometimes it is dried and ground into a powder beforehand, then made into a tea. Both Slippery Elm gruel and tea are said to soothe the digestive tract, especially the GI tracts of those with irritable bowel syndrome or gastritis. There are no known contraindications for Slippery Elm. According to Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide, "Although Slippery Elm has not been scientifically investigated, the FDA has approved it as a safe demulcent substance." [4]

The bark has also been used historically as an abortifacient, first moistened with water and then inserted into the cervix. This practice became thoroughly regulated by "elm stick laws" in several US states, which forbade selling pieces of slippery elm bark longer than a certain length. Selling whole Slippery Elm bark is banned in several countries including the UK because of its ability to induce an abortion.

Babies first food

Slippery Elm is from the dried, powdered inner-bark of the North American Red Elm tree. Over the past one hundred years it has been used by both naturopaths and medical professionals. Its main use has been as weaning food for young babies and also as an easily assimilated and soothing gruel for the elderly.

It can be bought from most health shops in powder form. It is considered good for the baby when starting their first solids, especially if you have to start early. The mucilage, which is its greatest contribution therapeutically, is of a unique kind. It absorbs intestinal fluids but at the same time providing nutrition and in particular calcium phosphate. It is considered better than baby rice and farex, as these can cause constipation and have no nutritional value. Slippery Elm is easy to digest and it very good for their bowels.

To make, you only need a tiny amount of powder and mix it with water, formula or breast milk. It can also be sprinkled on food to help with digestion.


The fibrous inner bark is a strong and durable fibre, which can be spun into thread, twine or rope. It can be used for bow strings, ropes, jewellery, clothing, snowshoe bindings, woven mats, and even some musical instruments. The wood is used for the hubs of wagon wheels, as it is very shock resistant owing to the interlocking grain.

Once cured, the wood is also excellent for making fires with the bow drill method, as it grinds into a very fine flammable powder under friction.

Hybrid cultivars

U. rubra had limited success as a hybrid parent in the 1960s, resulting in Coolshade, Lincoln, Rosehill, and probably Willis hybrids [5]. In later years, it was also used in the Wisconsin programme to produce Repura and Revera [6] although neither appear to have been commercially released (2007).


North America


North America

Seed suppliers



  1. ^ "Ulmus rubra information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-03-14.  
  2. ^ Gotthilf H E Muhlenberg
  3. ^ Ulmus rubra Muhl
  4. ^ Braun, Lesley; Cohen, Marc (2006). Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based. This reference is incorrect; the FDA does not "approve" food substances. It only approves properly investigated drugs. Guide (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone. p. 586. ISBN 9780729537964.  
  5. ^ Green, P S (24 July 1964). "Registration of cultivar names in Ulmus" (PDF). Arnoldia 24 (6-8): 41–46.  
  6. ^ 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.  
  7. ^ Johnson, Owen (ed.) (2003). Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland. Whittet Press, ISBN 9781873580615

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Ulmus rubra


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Rosales
Familia: Ulmaceae
Genus: Ulmus
Species: Ulmus rubra


Ulmus rubra Muhl.


Transactions of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting useful Knowledge 3:165. 1793

Vernacular names

English: Slippery Elm
Türkçe: Kırmızı karaağaç
Українська: В'яз слизький
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Ulmus rubra on Wikimedia Commons.

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