What is a hackberry

Common hackberry

Plant form of common hackberry.

Hackberry (C. occidentalis) is a large native tree found commonly on river terraces and floodplains in southern and central Minnesota. It is related to the American elm and after the arrival of Dutch elm disease in Minnesota, hackberry often replaced American elms both in native forests and in planted landscapes.

Hackberry is used as a shade tree or a boulevard tree. It establishes easily and grows well in urban landscapes because of its wide soil adaptability and its tolerance of heat, drought, salt spray, wind, ice, and short-term flooding.

The bark of hackberry provides year-round interest in landscapes. The fruit is a popular food for birds and small mammalian wildlife. Much of the fruit remains on the tree throughout winter until it is eaten by birds.


  • Deciduous tree; it drops its leaves in fall
  • Height: 75 to 100 feet
  • Width: 75 to 100 feet
  • Medium to fast growth
  • Pyramidal shape in youth, spreading rounded shape in maturity
  • Bark of young trees appears covered with bumpy warts, but pattern changes to cork-like ridges as trees mature
  • 2 ½- to 4-inch dark green leaves
  • ⅓ to ½ inch berry-like fruit called drupes that change from green to purple or reddish brown in autumn
  • Fall color is yellow

Growing common hackberry

  • Hardiness zone: 3 to 9
  • Light: Full sun to partial sun
  • Best soil properties for common hackberry
    • Sandy loams to clay soils, tolerates other
    • Soil pH 6.6 to 8.0, tolerates lower; Have your soil tested by the U of M Soil Testing Lab
    • Dry to wet soils and well-drained to poorly-drained soils
  • Transplants easily as a small bare root plant in spring or as a containerized or balled and burlapped plant throughout the growing season

Common problems

One of the few liabilities of this species is the presence of disfiguring witches brooms that can be seen throughout the crown of some trees during winter.

Pests and stresses: Visit What’s wrong with my plant? – Hackberry for a list of the most common hackberry pests and stresses in Minnesota.

Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator; Kathy Zuzek former Extension educator; and Rebecca Koetter

Reviewed in 2018

Common Hackberry Tree

The common hackberry is particularly resilient, making it ideal for use in situations where other trees will not thrive. A tree of simple beauty, it is being used more and more widely as a landscape specimen.

Description of common hackberry: As a young tree, the hackberry is roughly pyramidal. As it matures, it takes on a vase-shaped profile, with arching branches much like the American elm. In fact, it is commonly used as a replacement for that tree where Dutch elm disease is a problem. It can reach 100 feet in height but usually does not exceed 60 feet in culture. The bark is gray-brown with characteristic corky ridges. The deciduous leaves are elmlike and bright green with toothed edges. They become yellow in the fall. The berries ripen in midfall and vary in color from red to dark purple.


How to grow common hackberry: This is a good city tree, able to take hot, dry winds and drought. On the other hand, it does equally well in moist, cool situations. Grow in full sun. The tree is generally pest free, although it can be affected by witches’-broom. Infected sections can be pruned out. The leaves often bear harmless nipple galls that form green lumps.

Uses for common hackberry: The common hackberry makes a good street tree and is adaptable to a wide variety of landscape situations. It is also a good tree for attracting birdlife.

Common hackberry related varieties: The variety ‘Prairie Pride’ is a good selection, offering denser growth and excellent resistance to witches’-broom.

Scientific name for common hackberry: Celtis occidentalis

Hackberry trees are worth another look

Day by day, hour by hour, trees are dropping their leaves, allowing us to appreciate their architectural structure. While growing conditions can shape a tree’s form – a white oak’s limbs will be truncated in a crowded forest, but in the middle of a pasture, they’ll sprawl – each species also has its own inherent traits. Compare the lateral limbs of a black gum with a vase-shaped willow oak.

Some sources compare the shape of the common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) to one of our most graceful trees, the elm. In my experience, this is yet another reminder that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. At its best, the hackberry has a great deal of character. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the “broad crown is often erratic in shape.” Hackberries often grow in riparian areas. Amid the dense vegetation, they branch frantically, desperate for any shaft of sunlight. Even in the open, they can’t seem to resist sending out awkward limbs. These are prone to break. They also tend to produce unsightly sprays of twigs known as witches’ broom.

Hackberry leaves covered in sooty mold. Photo: Ruth Ann Grissom

The hackberry’s trunk resembles a beech with a bad case of acne. The smooth bark is covered with what is often described as “corky warts.” Toward the base, these bumps seem to coalesce into deeply grooved ridges. Their leaves have no appreciable fall color, and they’re susceptible to powdery mildew and hackberry nipple gall. Even worse, they’re often attacked by the Asian woolly hackberry aphid. These fluffy insects, resembling whiteflies, secrete a sticky honeydew. This, in turn, creates conditions for a proliferation of sooty mold. Anything unfortunate enough to inhabit the area under a hackberry’s canopy — a lawn, an herbaceous layer, a sidewalk, roof or deck — is stained dark gray. While the tree itself doesn’t seem to suffer, a poorly sited hackberry might force homeowners to apply systemic pesticides, which kills beneficial insects as well as the woolly aphid.

Despite these negatives, the Arbor Day Foundation actually encourages their use as a street tree or shade tree. (Perhaps this advice pre-dates the woolly aphid invasion in the 1990s.) While hackberries tolerate many challenging conditions – air pollution, heavy clay, wet soil or drought – it’s hard to imagine why someone would actually want or need to plant one. In the Piedmont, they routinely pop up in the neglected margins of suburban yards.

That’s where I first encountered a hackberry. On a fine autumn day many years ago, I noticed our late, great Jack Russell terrier, Buster, grubbing around in the leaves along our property line. There, I’d left a moonvine entwined in the fence. Past its prime, it was still adorned with clusters of shiny purple seed pods. I suddenly remembered that moonvine seeds were hallucinogenic! Alarmed, I fell to my knees and crawled alongside Buster, trying to determine exactly what he was eating. To my relief, it wasn’t the seeds at all, but small brownish-purple, slightly wrinkled fruits. I traced their source to the limb of a neighbor’s scraggly tree that reached into our yard. Animal Poison Control assured me hackberry fruits aren’t toxic. In fact, the flesh is said to be sweet, with a flavor reminiscent of dates. Buster certainly had a taste for them, but I’ve never worked up the courage to try them myself.

I might recoil at thought of having a hackberry in my backyard, but I celebrate them in the Piedmont’s natural areas. In the right setting, they’re supremely beneficial to wildlife. Their fruits might lack the aesthetic appeal of holly berries, but they’re prized by birds in winter, especially woodpeckers, waxwings, mockingbirds and robins. The hackberry is also a host plant for several butterfly species including the American snout, mourning cloak, question mark, hackberry emperor and tawny emperor.

Hackberries remind me of the French term jolie laide (literally “beautiful ugly”). It’s used to describe someone who’s unconventionally attractive. Critic Daphne Merkin defines it as “a triumph of personality over physiognomy, the imposition of substance over surface.” Two centuries ago, renowned French botanist Andre Michaux recognized the hackberry’s allure. In The North American Sylva, he wrote, “The Hack Berry is certainly one of the most beautiful trees of its genus.” He went on to say, “In France, it is principally esteemed for the rapidity of its growth; and it is to be wished that its wood may be found valuable enough to entitle it to a place in our forests.”

Production of Common Hackberry

By Martin Shervey

Why grow Common Hackberry

With the increased population in cities, more trees are needed that can withstand the stresses that a city produces.Common Hackberry or Celtis occidentalis is a good tree that does well in the urban environment.Common Hackberry is very urban tolerant, has rapid growth and establishment, and is very cold hardy.It is also a large shade tree, which can help reduce the temperature in “heat islands.”

Growing Conditions

Common Hackberry needs full sun but is tolerant of partial sun in it youth.It prefers moist, rich soils but is highly adaptable to many adverse conditions.Common Hackberry has low water requirements and is highly tolerant to salt and alkali soils, which allows it to grow almost anywhere.It is native to zones 2 to 9, but grows at different rates in different zones.

The tree can be propagated by both seed and cuttings grafted onto seedling understock, or they may be rooted.The soil should have mycorrhizae induced to help it grow more vigorously in pots.

Common Hackberry, when fully grown, is about 70 feet tall with a 50-foot wide crown.The trunk diameter can be over 3 feet wide.When planted by itself, in the open, it will tend to grow shorter with a wider crown.It is not uncommon for Hackberry to grow over 70 feet tall in ideal conditions.A smaller variety of Common Hackberry, georgiana Ahles, grows to 40 feet to 60 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 1 foot to 1.5 feet.This smaller variety grows in zones 5-7.

Some limitations of Common Hackberry are they are susceptible to several aesthetically unattractive conditions, such as witches’ broom and nipple gall.Even though it is susceptible to some diseases and insects, none of these are life threatening to the tree.Another limitation is it is somewhat sensitive to being transplanted in autumn.The tree should then be planted in the spring if possible.If not possible, the tree should be fertilized, watered thoroughly, and mulched adequately in the fall to enhance survival chances during the first winter.Even though this tree provides large amounts of shade in the summer, it has a poor fall color.Other trees should be planted if you desire high quality fall color.

Warts caused by nipple gall.

Growing in the Greenhouse

To get the best results, cuttings should be grown n a greenhouse under moist conditions.If propagating Common Hackberry by seeds, the seeds should be germinated in clay loam soil, or something similar.An acrylic greenhouse should be used and it should have a low ceiling for a smaller area to heat.The smaller area will reduce heating costs.Plantings will take place in the late winter to early spring.The seedlings should be placed outdoors in mid to late summer to harden them off.This will also reduce heat damage to the roots on warm summer days.Soil used in the greenhouse should not be completely sterile, but should have mycorrhizae induced into it to help the tree absorb nutrients.The mycorrhizae used should by ectomycorrhizae.

Before the first winter, the new seedling should be brought inside the greenhouse, while allowing the greenhouse to cool down to around freezing.This will increase the survival rate of the seedlings for the first winter in harsh climates while allowing acclimation to take place.The next spring, the seedling should be taken outside before bud break.While moving the seedlings outside, they should be planted into larger containers, which should be done every spring.Be sure to always use soil-containing mycorrhizae.

Cultivated hackberry can grow up to 1.3 feet per year, so the plant should be about 2.5 to 3 feet tall after 2 years.This rate of growth prevents more than two years of growth in the greenhouse, because the seedlings will take up so much space.Pots used for growing the seedlings must be deep because hackberry is a deep rooting species.A heavier soil may be used to slow root growth down towards the bottom of the pot.

The soil in the seedling post, in the greenhouse, should not be saturated because the new seedlings’ roots are more sensitive than the older trees, to saturation.Severe injury can take place within 60 days to the hackberry seedlings’ root system and they are often unable to recover.

While in the greenhouse, hackberry should be watched to prevent gall mites and powdery mildew outbreaks.This can cause “witches-broom” which will decrease the value of the tree and lower your profits.

Using greenhouses to grow seedlings will increase the seedling size and allow more seedlings to survive.Common Hackberry can grow for longer periods of time and more vigorously if grown in the greenhouse under optimal conditions.This will increase the value of the seedlings and increase the number of sellable seedlings.

Benefits of Growing

Common Hackberry is an excellent urban tree because of its ability to grow to a large size in many different conditions.Its wood strength is much greater than that of Silver Maple; another large tree that is highly adaptable to poor soil.The tree can also be used for windbreaks and help in erosion control.

Its large size and ornamental bark makes it an authentically pleasing tree to look at.

It also attracts many different birds by producing fruit.Some of the different birds that are attracted by the fruit are wild turkeys, pheasant, quail, grouse, and bluebirds.The large size also provides cover and shelter for these birds.


Common Hackberry can be sold as bare root seedlings, in wire baskets, and containers.The average price of a two-year-old bare root seedling is $2.50.Wire basket prices for a 2-inch diameter tree are $78 and $87 for a 2.5-inch diameter tree.Container grown trees are $21.40 for a 7-foot tall tree grown in a 10-gallon container and $34.90 for a 1.5-inch diameter tree grown in a 15-gallon container.











6 Trees You Should Never, Ever Plant

Mimosa. Photo: Steve Bender

Fall is the best time of the year to plant a tree, but look before you leap. Some trees are nice. Others are monsters. Here are six monsters you should never, ever plant in a residential neighborhood, lest you earn your neighbor’s hatred and Grumpy’s scorn.

Comment: Yes, I know. You grew up with mimosas in the yard (sniff), they remind you of Meemaw’s garden (sniff, sniff), and they’re so pretty when their fluffy pink flowers open in early summer. But let’s get real. The flowers last about two weeks. Then they’re replaced by scads of these large, ugly, brown seed pods that hang there until the next spring. So for two weeks of beauty you get 50 weeks of gross. Plus, seedlings from your tree will sprout in everyone’s yard within a quarter-mile.

Terrible Tree #2 — White Mulberry (Morus alba)

Image zoom emWhite mulberry. Photo: www2.ku.edu/em

What’s wrong with it: Weedy, extremely messy, insect-prone, aggressive surface roots crack pavement, male trees produce prodigious amounts of pollen that cause allergies.

Comment: Yes, I know. You grew up with a mulberry in the yard and you loved eating the insipid sweet fruit with Meemaw in summer (sniff). What you’re forgetting is that birds love its berries above all other foods and will gorge themselves. The fruit works on them just like a colonoscopy prep, so they enthusiastically splatter anything near a tree — car, sidewalk, porch, an unlucky Jehovah’s Witness — with seedy, purple mulberry poop. This is one crappy tree.

Terrible Tree #3 — Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

Image zoom emHackberry. Photo: biologicalthinking.blopspot.com/em

What’s wrong with it: Weedy, messy, subject to an astonishing array of insects and diseases.

Comment: People grow this shade tree when they can’t grow anything else. It takes drought, heat, poor soil, air pollution, and wind. That makes it OK for shading The Little House on the Prairie, but not your house in the burbs. Hackberry is easy to recognize by its silvery-gray bark encrusted with warty ridges. Small, blue-black fruits favored by birds spread seedlings all over. The worst thing about hackberry is that woolly aphids feeding on the leaves drip sticky honeydew. Sooty mold grows on the honeydew, blackening absolutely everything under the tree. Hack it down now.

Terrible Tree #4 — Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

Image zoom emEastern cottonwood. Photo: statesymbolsusa.org/em

What’s wrong with it: Extremely messy, very weedy, breaks up in storms, short-lived, very prone to insects and diseases, roots crack pavement and invade water lines.

Comment: As with hackberry, most people saddled with this garbage tree live with it because no other trees will grow there. I can’t think of a messier tree. In addition to the sticks, twigs, broken branches, and leaves that shower down almost every day, it also blankets the yard around it in early summer with cottony seeds — hence, the name “cottonwood.” The cotton rolls up into lumpy pillows of foam that roll across the ground and pile up against houses, walls, fences, and immobile Congressmen (Is there any other kind?) The only good use for this nasty tree is as firewood. Burn one today!

Terrible Tree #5 — Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Image zoom emTwo silver maples and a billion seeds. Photo: Steve Bender/em

What’s wrong with it: Weedy, breaks up in storms, roots crack pavement and invade water lines.

Comment: Folks plant silver maple for one reason — they want quick shade. It grows fast, upwards of three feet a year, eventually reaching 70 feet tall. But you pay a steep price for that shade. Its roots are infamous for clogging water lines and breaking sidewalks. Its weak branches fall in storms. And look at all the seeds it drops in one season, each destined to become a baby silver maple! Found in practically every state from Florida to the Canadian border, it proves the fallacy that “native plants are always better.” Let’s send this native packing.

Terrible Tree #6 — Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’)

Image zoom emA fitting end for Bradford pear. Photo: Steve Bender/em

What’s wrong with it: Its flowers stink like tuna on a trunk, thorny seedlings sprout everywhere, and its suicidal branching structure makes it explode in storms.

Comment: Finally — finally! — more people are cutting down Bradford pears than planting them. Given the trees’ short life spans, they’ll hopefully disappear from the suburbs within a decade or two. But the damage has been done. Cross-pollination with other selections of callery pear has resulted in impenetrable thickets of brutally thorny seedlings that clog roadsides, fields, and fence rows. How low should you prune a Bradford pear? As low as you can saw.

Are there trees you despise more than these? Please comment and let Grumpy and the whole world know!

“I Just Hate Hate Bradford Pears!”

“Mimosa — The Wonderful, Awful Weed”

“Five Awful Plants for the Front of Your House”

“Worst Tree I Ever Planted”

Hackberry: Little known but wildlife friendly

The hackberry tree is found all over Arkansas, but it is something of a Rodney Dangerfield – it gets no respect.

The hackberry tree is found all over Arkansas, but it is something of a Rodney Dangerfield – it gets no respect.

That’s from humans. All sorts of wild critters know the hackberry and love it.

The tree has its good points, and it has its bad points. The fruit of the hackberry is relished by birds, many animals and even humans who know what it is. But the fruit is tiny – pea-sized. The wood of the hackberry burns well in fireplaces and stoves, although most users rate it below oak, hickory and ash.

Drying makes a difference in hackberry for firewood. Hackberry wood that has dried for six months to a year or so will burn in the fireplace much better than freshly cut or unseasoned wood. The wood splits fairly well.

On the downside, hackberry trees can be invasive and troublesome. Their roots often come to the surface of the ground, meaning they can push up and buckle sidewalks, driveways and even paved streets. In yards, the roots can interfere with mowers. The limbs are brittle, making them susceptible to Arkansas ice storms.

But hackberry trees grow almost anywhere.

They can tolerate drought conditions, and they can withstand boggy conditions. They do all right in alkaline soils, and they can grow in acidic soils, although not as well as in other types of ground.

Hackberry trees can grow large — 60 or more feet tall and two feet or more in diameter at chest height. In Arkansas, the trees are usually smaller, anywhere from a half-foot to a foot and a half in diameter.

Wildlife biologists find all sorts of critters in and around hackberry trees.

Butterflies of many species like them. Songbirds such as the bluebird, cedar waxwing, yellow-bellied sapsucker, mockingbird and robin go for hackberries. The berries are also eaten by wild turkey, quail and doves. Squirrels like the berries, as do raccoons, beavers, possums, skunks and foxes.

Hackberry jelly and jam is a delicacy but an uncommon one. It takes considerable effort to gather enough of the little berries to make a batch of jam, but it can be done. Native Americans crushed the berries and used them for seasoning meats, historians tell us.

Here are instructions for hackberry jam from a Texas friend:

Wash the berries, remove the stems and place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover the berries. One cup of berries will eventually yield about 1/2 cup of jam. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Once the skin has softened, use a masher to begin removing the skin and pulp from the seed. Pour the water and berries through a sieve or strainer into another saucepan to strain out the seeds. Push as much of the pulp through the strainer as possible using a wooden spoon. At this point, you might realize that a lot of the pulp and skin is still on the strainer. Take about 1/4 cup of the hackberry water in the saucepan and pour it back through the strainer to wash extra pulp into the saucepan. Pour another 1/4 cup or so of water through the strainer into the saucepan. Pull the skin pieces off the seeds and throw them into the saucepan. This adds some flavor and texture to the finished jam.

Add 1/4 cup sugar (for 1 cup of hackberries) and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the saucepan and boil. Then simmer and stir the liquid until it thickens — 15 to 25 minutes. Pour the thickened jam into a jar and seal or serve with biscuits.


Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


Historically, North American tree species received colorful, descriptive names from the Native Americans who first encountered them. In turn, the colonists early on either adopted those names or chose their own for the tree. Not so with the hackberry. Records from the period make no mention of the even then abundant tree. Maybe it was because hackberry, although a member of the elm family, doesn’t look much like an elm. Even its leaves more closely resemble the nasty nettle weed. And its wood, despite being fairly easy to work, was long ignored. Eventually, though, someone called the tree hackberry, and the species at least had a title, if not respect. Today, hackberry still is one of the most neglected hardwoods in North America, but for little explainable reason. Hackberry’s first commercial role was as hoops for barrels because of the wood’s toughness and flexibility. Now, though, the wood becomes kitchen cabinets, inexpensive furniture, and inevitably, boxes and crates. Increasing demand for it as a substitute for more costly white ash has increased hackberry’s volume in the marketplace.

Wood identification

Actually, there are four hackberry species in North America, all looking a lot the same. The common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) has the greatest range, but a southern hackberry, called sugarberry, produces the most commercial lumber. But the characteristics of each hackberry species remain the same. In fact, they are mixed and sold together. Hackberry grows best in the thick forests of the bottomlands. In fact, along the Mississippi River, specimens nearly 4′ in diameter and 120′ tall have been recorded. In other areas, hackberry may only attain half that size. Recognizing hackberry isn’t difficult. Just look at the bark. Ranging in color from light brown to silvery gray, it usually features ridges and rough, irregular warts. And in summer, hackberry carries 2-4″ long, roundish, tooth-edged leaves that end in a sharp point. Small purple, cherrylike fruits (edible by birds) that ripen in the fall. At 37 pounds per cubic foot air-dried, hackberry wood weighs about the same as black walnut and is nearly as hard but not as strong. Yet surprisingly, it outranks walnut in shock resistance. The color of hackberry ranges from creamy white (sometimes with a grayish cast) to a light yellowish tan, with no sharp contrast between heartwood and sapwood. Its grain resembles ash.

Uses in woodworking

Hackberry may look like ash, but it’s not as rugged. However, you can use it for furniture such as chairs and tables, and for cabinets, too. You can carve hackberry, but its coarseness isn’t very appealing. Woodturners might reject it for the same reason.


Although hackberry’s commercial volume has steadily risen over the years, don’t expect to find it at a typical retail outlet. The demand just isn’t there yet. But local mills within hackberry’s range carry it, and large hardwood suppliers can special order the wood. Expect to pay about $1.50 per board foot or less. Veneer isn’t available except to the architectural trade. According to a spokesman for a major hardwood producer that processes 10 million board feet of hackberry annually, the wood has only one fault. But it’s one you should look out for. Unless harvested in winter when the sap is down, hackberry has the tendency to develop a bluish-gray stain. And, says our source, you might not notice it on the surface of rough-sawn stock until planing. But, the stain does not harm the wood in any way, and like the varying hues in yellow poplar, it does have its own appeal. Should you desire light-colored stock without stain, be sure to buy only surfaced (S4S) stock, and carefully inspect it. Then, follow these suggestions for working this under-appreciated wood.

Machining methods

  • Although not nearly as hard as white ash, hackberry does have a blunting effect on cutting edges, so opt for carbide cutters.
  • Hackberry has irregular grain. Sometimes the grain runs straight and then again it can be interlocked. When you run into interlocking grain, plane it at a slight angle to avoid tearout.
  • Don’t force-feed this somewhat dense wood when ripping, as it will burn. And use a rip-profile blade with at least 24 teeth.
  • Watch grain direction when jointing this wood. To avoid tearout, the jointer knives should follow the grain direction.
  • Because hackberry burns and chips almost as easily as white ash, be sure to take shallow passes with your router. And on end grain and cross-grain cuts, use a backing board.
  • Don’t skip grits when ding hackberry, as it easily scratches.
  • Drill this wood only with bradpoint bits, and lift the bit from the hole occasionally to clear it or you’ll burnish and burn the stock.
  • Plan on white glue for joining because like ash, hackberry absorbs glue slowly. You’ll want plenty of open time.
  • Staining hackberry won’t cause you any problems, unless you have to compensate for blue-stained wood by going lighter in those areas.

Carving comments

Unlike the much harder white ash, hackberry will yield to carving tools if you like its look. To tackle it, try these tips:

  • Deeper bevels of 25-30 degrees will cut better in rough-in work. Then switch to 15-20 degree bevels for finer cuts.
  • Avoid splinters along straight grain by taking shorter strokes and using stop cuts.

Turning tips

Should you decide to turn hackberry, take shallows cuts to avoid splintering, and make them with sharp tools.

Shop-Tested Techniques

Any exceptions-and special tips pertaining to this issue’s featured wood species-appear under other headings on this page.

  • For stability in use, always work wood with a maximum moisture content of 8 percent.
  • Feed straight-grained wood into planer knives at a 90° angle. To avoid tearing, feed figured wood or twisted grain at a slight angle (about 15°), and take shallow cuts of about 1⁄32 “.
  • For clean cuts, rip with a rip-profile blade with 24-32 teeth. Smooth crosscutting requires at least a 40-tooth blade.
  • Avoid using twist drills. They tend to wander in the wood and cause breakout. Use a backing board under the workpiece to reduce tearout.
  • Drill pilot holes for screws.
  • Rout with sharp, preferably carbide-tipped, bits and take shallow passes to avoid burning.
  • Carving hardwoods means fairly shallow gouge bevels-15° to 20°-and shallow cuts.

Kansas Forest Service

Native Range
Celtis occidentalis, or Hackberry, is found growing throughout the state. It prefers a deep moist soil, but is drought resistant on upland sites.

Mature Size
On favorable soils it may reach a height of 60 to 70 feet.

Growth Rate
Growth is slow at first, but after a few years should average 12 to 18 inches annually.
Leaves, Stems and Fruit
The leaves are simple and alternately arranged on the twig. They are 2 1/2 to 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide with small teeth along the leaf edge (photo) Leaf color ranges from light green above to paler green below. Flowering occurs in the spring as leaves begin to emerge with both male and female flowers borne on the same tree. Twigs are gray-brown and slender. Bark is grayish and rough with wart-like projections. The fruit is a dark purple drupe (berry-like), approximately 1/4 inch in diameter which remains on the tree most of the winter.
Windbreaks – Because of its ability to tolerate drought conditions, hackberry is a good choice for windbreak plantings. It can be used as an interior row in a multi-row windbreak if care is taken, especially on poor sites, to prevent overtopping by faster more vigorous trees. It may also be used as a single-row field windbreak.
Timber – Hackberry is a commercial timber species. The wood is used in furniture construction, boxes, crates and pallets.
Wildlife – The fruit provides an excellent source of winter food for a variety of birds including quail, pheasant and turkey. Both whitetail and mule deer browse on twigs and foliage.
Adaptation and Soil
Hackberry has adapted statewide and grows best on deep, moist, fertile soils along streams. However, once established, hackberry will tolerate upland soils.
In windbreak plantings, in row spacing ranges from 10 to 18 feet.
One-year-old, bare root seedlings, 18 to 24 inches tall are used in plantings. Initial survival is good with adequate site preparation and weed control.
Hackberry is susceptible to a variety of insect attacks that can cause some disfiguration of the leaves and branches, but they are of minor importance.

Soil Information
Average Height in 20 Yrs:
-Eastern 28-30 ft.
-Central 26-28 ft.
-Western 26-29 ft.
Growth Rate: Fast
Native Species: Native to Kansas
Windbreak Value: High
Wildlife Value: High
Lumber Products: Yes
Fuelwood Products: Yes
Drought Tolerance: High
Texture: 1,2,3
Soil Saturation: Medium Tolerance
Salinity Tolerance: Medium Tolerance
pH Range: 4.5-8

What Is A Hackberry Tree: Learn About Hackberry Growing

So, what is a hackberry and why would one want to grow it in the landscape? Keep reading to learn more about this interesting tree.

What is a Hackberry Tree?

A hackberry is a medium sized tree indigenous to North Dakota but able to survive throughout most of the United States. Hackberry is an easy to identify member of the Elm family but in a different genus (Celtis occidentalis).

It has a distinctive warty bark surface sometimes described as stucco-like. It has 2 to 5-inch long, alternate leaves with unequal bases and tapered ends. The leaves are dull green to glossy with a network of veining and serrated except at their base.

Hackberry Tree Info

Hackberry trees also bear ¼-inch sized, dark purple pitted fruit (drupes) that are valuable food sources through the late winter months for a variety of bird species including flickers, cardinals, cedar waxwings, robins and brown thrashers. Of course, in the yin and yang of things, this attraction has a detriment as well since small mammals and deer may damage the tree when browsing.

Patience does not necessarily need to be a virtue when hackberry growing; the tree matures rapidly, attaining heights of 40 to 60 feet at the crown and 25 to 45 feet across. Above the gray ridged barked trunk, the tree broadens and arches out from the top as it matures.

The wood of the hackberry tree is used for boxes, crates and firewood, so not necessarily a wood for finely crafted furniture. The Native Americans once used the fruit of the hackberry to flavor meats much as we use pepper today.

How to Grow Hackberry Trees

Grow this medium to tall tree on farms as field windbreaks, riparian planting or along highways in beautification projects – as it does well in dry and windy areas. The tree also enlivens boulevards, parks and other ornamental landscapes.

Other hackberry tree info tells us that the specimen is hardy in USDA zones 2-9, which covers a good bit of the United States. This tree is moderately drought hardy but will do best on moist but well draining sites.

When hackberry growing, the tree thrives in most any type of soil with a pH of between 6.0 and 8.0; it is also able to withstand more alkaline soils.

Hackberry trees should be planted in full sun to partial shade.

It truly is quite an adaptable species of tree and requires little care.

Wonderful Facts About the Hackberry Tree You Shouldn’t Miss

If you’ve seen hackberry trees, you’ll know that it can make any landscape look beautiful, not just because of their deep emerald foliage and their pearl white flowers that invite butterflies towards them, but also due to the crimson fruits beckoning birds in their cool shelter.

Call it by Any Other Name

These are some alternative names for the common hackberry―American hackberry, beaverwood, Celtis canina, Celtis occidentalis ssp. tenuifolia, Celtis pumila, Celtis tenuifolia, false elm, nettle tree, northern hackberry, and sugar berry.

Hackberry trees are large deciduous trees that are often confused with other elms, sugar hackberry, and English elm.

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These trees have a fast growth rate, and live a hardy and long life. They are flood-resistant, drought-tolerant, rugged, and able to withstand acid, sand, high salt, clay, and alkali levels in soil. These trees can also tolerate air and soil pollutants related to the urban areas, thus making them one of the top choices to be used as street trees.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Hamamelididae
Order: Urticales
Family: Ulmaceae
Genus: Celtis L.
Species: Celtis occidentalis L.

Characteristics of the Hackberry Tree


These trees can grow up to the height of 60 feet and have a spread of around the same. They are broad crowned and often have an erratic shape.


The foliage of the common hackberry is asymmetrical, rough, and dull green in color. They are ovate in shape and around 4 – 6 inches long with a toothed and pointed tip.


The bark of these trees is warty and covered with ridges all over the trunk. They are often seen in shades of light gray.


Fruits of the common hackberry are small but fleshy bearing a single seed in them. They are found in an array of colors ranging from green to red and at times a gorgeous dark purple, attracting many birds and animals to gorge on them. The fruits are safe for animals, birds, and humans alike.

In fact, the Native Americans crushed these berries in order to extract their flavor to add to their animal fats, corn, and other foods.


The hackberry flowers grow in clusters in the spring. Their beautiful white colors in contrast to the dark green hues of the leaves attract many butterflies and birds towards them.

Pests and Diseases

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With winged and four-legged companions come other pests such as insects, fungal infections, and parasitic plants. The hackberry trees are prone to insects and fungal infections, which feed off them. Most common of the insects that the tree attracts are the hackberry bud gall maker, hackberry petiole gall psyllid, hackberry blister gall psyllid, and hackberry nipple gall maker.

Fungi that mostly affect this tree are the witches’ broom disease, which causes rosette formation on the branches. Another such problem of infestation is the oak fungus, which causes the roots to rot.

Parasitic plants like the mistletoe use the tree’s good colonizer and kill the tree over a period of time.

Butterflies and Animals

If butterflies are what you seek, then these trees are ideal for attracting Leila hackberry butterfly (Asterocampa leilia). The caterpillars of these butterflies resemble the green leaves with thorns, similar to those on the trees. On maturity, the caterpillars morph into gorgeous orange butterflies with black spots.

These trees also play host to the Snout butterfly (Libytheana bachmanii) which lays its eggs among the foliage.

Apart from butterflies, these trees also attract fauna, viz., ring-necked pheasant, quail, wild turkey, prairie chicken, robins, cedar waxwing, deer, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and other small mammals. The tree relies on these little critters to eat and then disperse the seeds in order to reproduce.


These trees are deep-rooted and often used to bring erosion under control. Their long and widespread branches often work well as windbreakers, while the roots prevent the soil from eroding.

Hackberry Tree held special medical value for the Native Americans, who used the bark of the hackberry tree for problems, viz., curing sore throat or venereal diseases, regulating the menstrual cycle, or even for inducing abortions. The berries were often used to add flavor to food, while the wood from these trees were also used for their prayer ceremonies.

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