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Monday - May 21, 2012

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Edible Plants, Medicinal Plants, Trees
Title: Dog eats Celtis laevigata, sugar hackberry
Answered by: Nan Hampton


This is an odd question but I am a biologist and have for years notice an odd behavior in my Golden Retriever. When he gets stomach distress or something makes him nervous like an incoming thunderstorm he will go out in our yard and search out Celtis laevigata(Sugar Hackberry)leaves and eat them. He especially looks for new leaves but will settle for more mature leaves if he can't find new growth near the ground from young trees. He will smell past other plant species to find hackberry. My question is: Are there any known medicinal uses for Celtis laevigata leaves especially as it relates to stomach discomfort?


For many years my large dogs (Great Dane/Black Lab mix—now deceased) would also seek out Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry) leaves to eat.   However, it seemed that they just enjoyed the leaves.   I didn't notice that they did this in relation to an upset stomach.   I have also seen my neighbor's dog looking for and eating the sugar hackberry leaves and a friend also says he has noticed his dog seeking them out.   I checked in the North American Ethnobotany database from the University of Michigan for Celtis sp. and its uses.   Medicinal uses include various parts to make medicine to treat sore throats, veneral disease, and problems with the menses in women.   One reference in the North American Ethnobotany database listed it as an aid for indigestion by the Navajo, but the specific part used for this was not named.  Additionally, many tribes used the berries for food, the bark was used to make a dye and to make sandals and there were other uses for the wood.  American Indian Health and Diet Project (AIHDP) also lists food and medicinal uses for sugar hackberry, but doesn't mention any use for gastrointestinal problems.  Several edible plant books list the berries as nibbles or have recipes using the berries (e.g., Delena Tull's Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest, Charles Allen's Edible Plants of the Gulf South, Carolyn Harvel and Billie Turner's Recipes from the Wild: Cooking with Native Texas Plants).  I went so far as to taste for myself the very young leaves on plants in my yard.   They were not the least unpleasant and, in fact, had a hint of sweetness.   This may be why dogs like them.





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