Content Detail

Due to susceptibility to Dutch elm disease (DED), slippery elm is not recommended for planting anywhere in this region and usually require removal and/or replacement.

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

To find suitable replacements for this tree, go to The Morton Arboretum’s tree and plant finder.  Before purchasing or planting, be sure to check for any local or state guidelines on any selected species, and ensure that this plant is suitable for its habitat by reviewing planting consideration or by finding it in the USDA Plants Database.

  • Family (English) Elm
  • Family (botanic) Ulmaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-60 feet
  • Mature width 30-50 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Vase-shaped
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well No
  • Wildlife Browsers, Migrant birds, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars No

More Information

Native Geographic Location and Habitat

Slippery elm is native to much of the eastern and central United States. C-Value: 4

Bark Color and Texture

Bark is gray, ridged, and furrowed. 

Leaf Arrangement, Size, Shape, and Texture  

Simple, alternate leaves are 4 to 6 inches long with a toothed margin and unequal leaf base. Leaves are dark green in summer, changing to yellow in fall.

Flower Arrangement, Shape, and Size

Small, inconspicuous flowers bloom in spring.

Fruit and Seed Descriptions

Fruit is a seed surrounded by a circular wafer-like wing.

Care Knowledge

Plant Care

Do not prune elm trees between mid-April and mid-October to avoid transmission of Dutch elm disease.

Pests, Diseases, and Tolerances  

Due to susceptibility to Dutch elm disease (DED), slippery elm is not recommended for planting anywhere in this region.


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