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HackberryCeltis occidentalis

  • Hackberry - Celtis occidentalis
  • Hackberry - Celtis occidentalis
  • Hackberry - Celtis occidentalis

The hackberry, while often forgotten by casual consumers, is commonly heralded by tree experts as “one tough tree.” Found on a wide range of soils east of the Rockies from southern Canada to Florida, these trees thrive in a broad span of temperatures and on sites that vary from 14 to 60" of annual rainfall. They can even stand up to strong winds and tolerate air pollution.

All of this hardiness adds up to a good landscape choice, particularly if you’re looking for an energy-conserving shade tree that doesn’t require watering.

Hardiness Zones

The hackberry can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–9. View Map

Tree Type

This tree is considered both a shade tree and an ornamental tree. It features a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight and adds visual interest and beauty to landscaping.

Mature Size

The hackberry grows to a height of 40–60' and a spread of 40–60' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium to Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium to fast rate, with height increases of anywhere from 13" to more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The hackberry grows well in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It has some tolerance for both flooding and drought.


This tree:
  • Features leaves shaped like spearheads, approximately 2–4" and 1½–2" wide, arranged alternately along the twigs. Small teeth edge at least the upper half of the leaf.
  • Produces small, dark red drupes about 1/3" in diameter that turn dark purple as they mature in mid-autumn. These berry-like fruit persist into the winter.
  • Develops a broad crown with arching branches.
  • Forms characteristic corky ridges and warts on trunk and branches.
  • Tolerates strong winds, pollution, heat, drought and salt.
  • Grows in a rounded, vase-like shape.
  • Has a growth pattern that resembles the elm--without the susceptibility to disease.

Wildlife Value

The fruit of the hackberry is popular with winter birds, especially the cedar waxwing, mockingbird and robin. The tree also attracts many butterfly species including American snout, comma, hackberry, mourning cloak, tawny emperor and question mark.


In earlier years, its tough, flexible wood was used for barrel hoops, and many a pioneer cabin was equipped with durable hackberry wood flooring. The tree was first cultivated in 1636.

Other common names given to the hackberry include common hackberry, sugarberry, nettletree, beaverwood, northern hackberry and American hackberry.