OTHER COMMON NAMES: TEXAS HACKBERRY, SUGAR BERRY, FALSE ELM, NEPALTREE, COMMON HACKBERRY, AMERICAN HACKBERRY, NORTHERN HACKBERRY, BEAVER WOOD, BASTARD-ELM, JUNIPER-TREE, HOOP-ASH, ONE-BERRY, PALO BLANCO
Hackberry filled with mistletoe
Celtis laevigata (SEL-tis lie-vee-GAT-tah)
Ulmaceae (Elm Family)
HEIGHT: 40 to 60 feet
SPREAD: 40 feet
FINAL SPACING: Do not plant
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Texas hackberry grows across the eastern two thirds of the state. It grows in almost any type soil, but cannot stand to grow in wet soil.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Hackberry is a scruffy looking shade tree with medium green foliage and berries in the fall. Smooth bark when young adding warts with age and tends to always have some portion of the tree turning brown, dying or falling apart.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Inconspicuous flowers appear with the new leaves in the spring. Fruit is a round red to black droop that ripens in the fall which the birds love to eat.
BARK: Pale gray, thin and smooth when young but develops wart-like growths with age.
FOLIAGE: Leaves are simple and alternate. Darker green on top than bottom and tend to have the hackberry galls or nipple galls as a common feature. Fall color is a weak yellow.
CULTURE: Hackberry is a fast-growing, short-lived tree. It self propagates easily from every seed that falls, does not need a lot of water or fertilizer but appears to be slowly declining across the country. The source of the problem is unknown. It could be the declining quality of the air.
Foreground: Large hackberry offers shade, berries that birds love to eat (photo by Maggie Dwyer)
PROBLEMS: Short lived, twig die-back, root fungal problems, leaf galls, generally untidy appearance, brittle wood, falling limbs, etc.
PROPAGATION: Easy to grow from seed. The fruit can be picked by hand in the late summer to early winter and planted right away. Seed may be sown outdoors in the fall in prepared beds. Natural germination occurs in the spring. Hackberry is also easily rooted from juvenile cuttings and from root sprouts and suckers.
INSIGHT: Hackberry wood is used in furniture making and also sporting and athletic goods. The dry, sweet fruit is eaten by a large number of birds. Hackberry's most important values are a fencerow plant, drought tolerance and providing habitat for wildlife and shade for livestock. Celtis occidentalis has a much more limited distribution in Texas than the other species. The biggest difference between the different species of hackberry is the size – especially the height they grow. Hackberry is sometimes used for smoking meats and other foods.