Botanical Name: Ulmus rubra
Common Name: Slippery Elm
Origin: Central & Eastern USA
Notable Feature: Like its inner bark which is slippery, the twigs if chewed are mucilaginous and soothing. Both were widely used to relieve sore throats and to dress wounds.
Habit: A deciduous tree that grows 40 to 70 feet tall and exhibits a vase-shaped habit with nearly horizontal branches and a rounded crown. Compared to other native elms, the trunk is free of limbs to a greater height. Bark is a dark reddish brown with an inner bark that is mucilaginous; bark fissures are not as diamond-shaped as those of the American elm.
Flower: Small, light green flowers appear in early spring, in clusters of 3 to 5, before the leaves emerge. Flowers are perfect (bisexual).
Fruit: A round, papery samara (3/4 to 1” across) with a shallow notch that ripens in late spring.
Foliage: Alternate, ovate, dark green leaves (4 to 6” long) are doubly serrated, hairy underneath, and conspicuously inequilateral (one half unlike the other half). Twigs slightly zigzag and end with a false bud.
Interesting Fact: In the past, Slippery Elm, unlike American Elm, was seldom used in landscaping. It was smaller than the American elm, attaining heights of only 40 to 70 feet. Even though it develops a vase-shape habit similar to American Elm, the small branches and twigs remain erect rather than drooping, resulting in a less graceful symmetry.