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Celtis occidentalis

Family: Cannabaceae

Leaf Type: Deciduous

Mature Height: ~20-40 m (~65-130 ft)

Fall Color: Light yellow

Native Range: Hackberries are commonly found throughout the Midwest and into parts of the South and Northeast.



Northern hackberries have small flowers that bloom in early spring. Their leaves are about 3.5 inches long, have an uneven base, and are pointed at the ends. They are toothed along the edges, rough on the top of the leaf, and have a pale, green underleaf. The fruit of hackberries is a small, round drupe, or fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed, that ripens to a dark purple. The fruit can remain on the trees into the winter. When the fruit dries, it is wrinkled and has historically been a food source for wildlife and humans. We don’t recommend trying one here! Hackberry bark is a key feature in identifying this tree and is noteworthy for its rough warty ridges (on more mature trees).


Fun Facts

● Although hackberry wood is unsuitable for many commercial purposes because it rots easily, the fruit is a great source of food for wildlife.
● Several Native American peoples ate the berries as food or to flavor food.
● The Latin word occidentalis in the scientific name of this tree means “coming from the west/westerly” which refers to the range of this species.

“If Trees Could Sing” is a project of The Nature Conservancy that highlights several recording artists and demonstrates the importance of trees. Check out what Farmer Jason has to say about hackberries. 
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