It is a medium sized deciduous tree with spreading branches, which grows to a height of 12-19 metres. The broad oblong leaves are 10-20cm long, rough on the top and velvety below. They are tinged red in the spring, green in the summer and yellow in the autumn. The flowers are produced before the leaves and appear in clusters of 10-20. The inner bark occurs in flat, oblong pieces, about 2-4mm brown in colour while the inner surface is paler and finely ridged.
For centuries, the inner bark of the slippery elm has been used in North America as a herb for a variety of uses. Sometimes the leaves are ground into a powder and made into a tea.