Hackberry Tree

Celtis occidentalis – Hackberry

hackberry tree

This Morton Arboretum Hackberry is 61 years old, grown from seed. Hackberry grows naturally in moist bottomland soil but will grow rapidly in a variety of soil types from moist, fertile soils to hot, dry, rocky locations in the full sun. Hackberry is tolerant of highly alkaline soil.

Hackberry is wind, drought, salt and pollution tolerant once established and is considered a moderately tough, urban-tolerant tree. Skilled pruning is required several times during the first 15 years of life to prevent formation of weak branch crotches and weak multiple trunks.

hackberry foliage

Hackberry was extensively used in street plantings in parts of Texas and in other cities as it tolerates most soils except extremely alkaline (pH > 8), and grows in sun or partial shade, but branches may break out from the trunk if proper pruning and training is not conducted early in the life of the tree. Even slight injury to the trunk and branches can initiate extensive internal decay. Hackberry is very susceptible to damage in an ice storm.


Relished by birds and other wildlife, hackberry fruits change from green to red to purple, and can stain concrete walkways.

Birds poop these seeds by the thousands all over my yard, driveway, and flower gardens. Very irritating – the seedlings are difficult to pull as soon as they rear their ugly heads.

hackberry bark

Hackberry’s distinctive “lumpy” bark. Hackberry is a member of the Family Ulmaceae, which includes Zelkova and Elm. There are about 200 species of trees and shrubs in Ulmaceae. Elms fell victim to Dutch Elm disease during the 1950s; until that time, they were the premier shade tree along the streets of our American towns and cities. The Morton Arboretum in past years has bred and marketed five new elm varieties resistant to Dutch elm disease.
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  1. Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson, Common Hackberry, USDA Forest Service Fact Sheet
  2. NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY, Field Guide to North American Trees– Eastern Region

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