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Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

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Common Hackberry

Summary

A tree with a distinctive warty bark, conspicuously asymmetrical leaves, and small berries that somewhat resemble dates in their hard, crunchy, and sweet flesh surrounding a single seed.

Range - Expand

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Native

This tentative map is based on the FHWA's ERA. This data lacks information on Canada, but also overestimates native ranges, especially around the edges, as this post explains. We have not yet reviewed or fixed this map.

USDA Plants Profile for Celtis occidentalis

Illinois Wildflowers Page for Celtis occidentalis

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) Article for Celtis occidentalis

Similar Plants

Habitat

Found in a wide variety of conditions, mostly in hardwood forests. More common in bottomlands along rivers and streams, but also found in open woods, rocky hillstones, limestone outcroppings, and sand barrens. In the western part of its range, restricted to richer and more sheltered sites.

Common on high pH soils, especially those derived from limestone, and intolerant of acidic soils (tolerant down to about 5.0). Although growth is best on nutrient-rich soils, it can sometimes be found on nutrient-poor soils, where it grows slowly.

Tolerant of soil saturation and substantial flooding, but absent from areas that are consistently saturated in all years as seedlings usually not able to survive to maturity in saturated soil. In the northwest of its range, from the Great Lakes region into the great plains, and throughout its range on limestone soils, it is also found in dry habitats.

Uses

Infrequently planted as a landscaping plant, but well-suited to this purpose. The distinctive bark of mature trees imparts an interesting visual accent to the landscape year-round, and the elm-like growth habit is both visually appealing and practical whether this is used as a street tree or shade tree. The somewhat open canopy allows some gardening underneath, and the fruit, which are small and relatively dry, are neater than that of many tree species.

Numerous other Celtis species occur in North America; most of them are native. Of these, sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) and dwarf hackberry (Celtis pumila) have the widest ranges that are most likely to overlap with this species.

A few non-native species have been introduced at isolated sites.

There are several other plants in other genera of the Cannabaceae or hemp family, and even more in the broader grouping that includes the Ulmaceae or elm family.

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