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Mr. Smarty Plants - Why so many Sugar Hackberry seedlings in my back yard in The Woodlands, TX?

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Saturday - May 25, 2013

From: The Woodlands, TX
Region: Select Region
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Trees
Title: Why so many Sugar Hackberry seedlings in my back yard in The Woodlands, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Why do I have so many Sugar Hackberry seedlings (Celtis Laevigata) sprouting up naturally in my back yard? There are a few Winged Elms in my neighborhood, but no Sugar Hackberry trees that I know of. According to a forestry report I just read, Hackberry only constitute 1% of the trees inventoried in green spaces in my community. Yet Hackberry comprises at least 95% of the volunteer seedlings in my yard every year. This year, there must have been 100 new Hackberry seedlings in my back yard. I have plenty of mature Pines, Oaks, and Yaupon growing all over my yard and street - but I see very few volunteer seedings from any of them. Where are all these Hackberry seedlings coming from?

ANSWER:

There is a prolific Sugar Hackberry somewhere within flying distance (by birds, that is) of your house in The Woodlands area.

The Sugar Hackberry Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry) is a common, medium-size tree of moderate to fast growth found in humid climates, and it grows natively in Harris County. Sugarberry is often used for street planting in the lower South and is also used as an ornamental in residential areas. The fruit of the Sugarberry is a spherical drupe, 0.25 to 0.5 inches in diameter with a thin pulp enclosing a single bony nutlet.( for comparison, the cherry is also an example of a drupe with a hard seed). Seed production starts when trees are about 15 years old, and Sugar Hackberry bears good seed crops in most years. The seeds are widely dispersed by birds.

When the seed is eaten, the bird is able to digest the the pulpy part of the fruit, but not the seed, which passes through the digestive track and is released in the feces. The seeds are able to germinate in the spring. The trees around your yard provide great perches for the birds to carry out the planting of Sugar Hackberry trees.  At least 10 species of birds including robins, mockingbirds, and other songbirds eat the sweetish fruits.

So when there are Sugar Hackberry trees in the vicinity along with birds, you are going to get seedlings in your yard. I’m surprised you don’t have more winged elm seedlings since their seeds are dispersed by wind.

For more information, I’m including a link to the U.S. Forrest Service that has a general interest article about Sugar Hackberry trees.

A second link is to an article written  about the Hackberry tree for davesgarden.com, and a third link has  the responses that it generated.

 

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