En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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.

 

More Trees Questions

Trees to replace ones lost in Westchester County, NY
May 09, 2013 - We lost a large number of trees in the forest adjacent to our home, and I plan to replant them. What species do you recommend to plant the area with natives and to keep it looking "natural."
view the full question and answer

Growth rate of Thuja occidentalis
January 31, 2011 - What is the growth rate of thuja occidentalis? I have found web sites and books claiming slow to fast.
view the full question and answer

Suffering Yaupon in Austin
July 14, 2012 - I am in the Austin area and I planted a Pride of Houston Yaupon in my back yard in March. It is in full sun. Lately the leaves have been turning pale green and now they fall off the tree upon touchi...
view the full question and answer

Illegal to remove an orange blossom from ground in Florida from Atlantis FL
March 28, 2012 - Is there any law that prevents someone from removing an orange blossom from the ground in Florida?
view the full question and answer

Treating scarred Gum Bumelia from Lampasas TX
June 05, 2013 - We have a very old Gum Bumelia with a scarred open tree trunk. In the past concrete was used to fill the scarred trunk. What is the acceptable method of helping the tree. More concrete or using blac...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center