The Robinson Library >> Science >> Botany >> Flowering Plants >> Family Cannabaceae (Hemp, Hops, Etc.)

Celtis occidentalis; aka nettle tree, sugarberry, beaverwood

hackberry tree

Hackberry trees average 50-60 feet in height, but heights of up to 125 feet are not uncommon. The trunk, which measures 1-4 feet in diameter, is covered with rough bark that is brown or pale gray. Mature trees feature upright-arching branching and a rounded spreading crown.

The 2-to-5-inch-long leaves are ovate to oblong-ovate in shape, rough-textured, glossy to dull green in color, and are coarsely toothed from midleaf to tip. They turn yellow in the fall.

Small greenish flowers appear in the spring (April or May, depending on region), with male flowers in clusters and female flowers solitary. Female flowers give way to round fleshy berry-like drupes, each of which bears one brown seed. The fruits become deep purple as they mature, and are ripe by September or October. The fruits are very popular with birds and other animals, making seed dispersal quite easy. The fruit can be consumed by humans, but hackberries are not commercially grown for food purposes.

hackberry bark, leaves, fruit

The hackberry is native to most of the eastern United States, from southern New England to North Carolina, and as far west as North Dakota and northern Texas. Abe to withstand a wide range of soil and moisture conditions, it is principally a bottom-land tree, but is also frequently found on limestone outcrops and limestone soils. It can withstand long, severe droughts, but not prolonged flooding or permanently high water tables.

Hackberry wood is heavy, but soft. It has limited commercial value, but is often used in inexpensive furniture. The most common "use" for the hackberry is as a shade tree, and it is a common choice for strret- and road-side plantings due to its tolerance of less-than-ideal growing conditions.

Scientific Classification

division Magnoliophyta
class Magnoliopsida
subclass Caryophyllidae
order Rosales
family Cannabaceae

Missouri Botanical Garden
USDA Forest Service

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Science >> Botany >> Flowering Plants >> Family Cannabaceae (Hemp, Hops, Etc.)

This page was last updated on May 18, 2017.