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Celtis occidentalis (Common hackberry)
Makin, Julie

Celtis occidentalis

Celtis occidentalis L.

Common Hackberry, Northern Hackberry, American Hackberry, Nettle Tree, Beaverwood, False Elm

Ulmaceae (Elm Family)

Synonym(s): Celtis canina, Celtis occidentalis var. canina, Celtis occidentalis var. cordata, Celtis occidentalis var. crassifolia, Celtis occidentalis var. occidentalis, Celtis occidentalis var. pumila, Celtis pumila var. deamii

USDA Symbol: ceoc

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

The common hackberry is a 60-100 ft. deciduous tree, varying greatly in response to habitat. The broad crown is often erratic in shape. Tree with rounded crown of spreading or slightly drooping branches, often deformed as bushy growths called witches’-brooms. Older bark is covered with conspicuous, corky projections. The plant foliage is dull-green and rough. Its fall color is not impressive. Orange-brown to dark-purple berries are arranged in clusters.

Used for furniture, athletic goods, boxes and crates, and plywood. The common name apparently was derived from hagberry, meaning marsh berry, a name used in Scotland for a cherry. Many birds, including quail, pheasants, woodpeckers, and cedar waxwings, consume the sweetish fruits. Branches of this and other hackberries may become deformed due to bushy growths called witches-brooms produced by mites and fungi. The leaves often bear rounded galls caused by tiny jumping plant lice.


From the Image Gallery

50 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Inflorescence: Axillary
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: 60-100
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Purple, Red
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AL , AR , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Canada: MB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: NH to WY, s. to GA, AR & n.w. TX
Native Habitat: Stream banks; flood plains; rocky hillsides of open woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Rich, moist soils. pH adaptable.


Use Wildlife: Hackberries are among the best food and shelter plants for wildlife. The fruit is relished by birds.
Use Food: Americans made cakes by pulverizing the entire fruit, including the seed, making a nutritious food that could be stored.
Dakota people used the dried fruit as a spice.
Native Americans used hackberry extracts medicinally, for sore throats, colds, regulation of menstrual periods. (Athenic)

Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Question Mark, Mourning Cloak, American Snout

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Wild cherry sphinx
(Sphinx drupiferarum)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
Tawny Emperor
(Asterocampa clyton)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
American Snout
(Libytheana carinenta)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Question Mark
(Polygonia interrogationis)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Mourning Cloak
(Nymphalis antiopa)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Stratified seed sown in spring or untreated seed sown in fall. Can be rooted from juvenile wood and from root sprouts or suckers.
Seed Collection: Pick mature fruits in late summer until winter. Air-dry with pulp on or soak overnight and rub pulp off on screen. Store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Stratify 60-90 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Research Literature

Reslit 168 - Baseline floristic assessment and classification of pine barrens vernal ponds (2009) J. T. Bried and G. J. Edinger
Reslit 655 - Nutrient uptake and growth response of six wetland/riparian plant species receiving swine lagoon effluent (1999) R. K. Hubbard, J. M. Ruter, G. L. Newton and J. G....
Reslit 755 - Ozone sensitivity of 28 plant selections exposed to ozone under controlled conditions (2008) L. J. Kline, D. D. Davis, J. M. Skelly, J. E. Sava...
Reslit 904 - Flood and salinity stress of wetland woody species, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and swamp Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora) (1998) J. K. McCarron, K. W. McLeod and W. H. Conner
Reslit 933 - Soil seed banks and the potential restoration of forested wetlands after farming (2003) B. A. Middleton
Reslit 934 - Effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Forest Structure of Taxodium Distichum Swamps of the Gulf Coast, USA (2009) B. A. Middleton
Reslit 957 - Nursery production techniques for obligate wetland species (2006) K. K. Moore, L. Fisher and D. L. Sutton
Reslit 1288 - Bottomland hardwood forest species responses to flooding regimes along an urbanization gradient (2007) M. E. Simmons, X. B. Wu and S. G. Whisenant
Reslit 1926 - A new species of Mompha Hubner (Lepidoptera : Coleophoridae : Momphinae) from buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis L.) with descriptions of the early stages (2004) D. L. Wagner, D. Adamski and R. L. Brown
Reslit 2379 - Protandry, Incompatibility, and Secondary Pollen Presentation in Cephalanthus occidentalis (Rubiaceae) (1993) F. M. Imbert and J. H. Richards

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

Additional resources

USDA: Find Celtis occidentalis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Celtis occidentalis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Celtis occidentalis


Record Modified: 2015-11-12
Research By: TWC Staff

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