En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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 Seeds and Seeding Questions

How to germinate seed for Styrax grandifolius
October 18, 2014 - How do I germinate seed for the Styrax grandifolius?
view the full question and answer

Information about growing mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora)
November 15, 2008 - I live just outside of Austin on 10 acres. I have several very large mountain laurels on my property that I planted from containers. Mine flower profusely every year. I feed them bi-weekly and wate...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of endangered plant Texas trailing phlox from Carrollton TX
December 26, 2013 - 1. How many seeds does the Texas trailing phlox produce per season? 2. Can the seeds be taken from a living plant without hurting it? Thank You!
view the full question and answer

Agarita and Mexican Buckeye not flowering or fruiting.
December 11, 2012 - The Greenbelt behind our home has a ton of agarita and Mexican buckeye, but they never bloom or berry. The pigeon berry is very happily doing both all year. Any suggestions for helping the agerita a...
view the full question and answer

When to plant wildflowers in California
December 10, 2013 - When is the best time to plant wildflowers in California?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center