Sugarberry – Celtis laevigata

Sugarberry – Celtis laevigata
Family Ulmaceae – Zelkova, Hackberry, Elm

Also called sugar hackberry, Texas sugarberry, lowland hackberry, or palo blanco (white hair).

Custom Search

Sugarberry tree
This huge sugarberry tree at the Morton Arboretum is 72 years old.

Sugarberry is a native deciduous tree growing to 60 to 100 feet [18-30 m]. Mature trees are typically 18 inches (46 cm) in d.b.h., 80 feet (24 m) tall, with 30 feet (9 m) clear of branches in good stands. The crown is spreading and round-topped or oblong. The bark of young trees is gray and smooth; mature trees develop corky outgrowths that are scattered to dense with smooth areas in between. The roots of sugarberry are relatively shallow; it does not form a distinct taproot and has only average resistance to windthrow. Sugarberry has a moderately long life span, not usually living over 150 years.

The wood of sugarberry is close grained, soft, and of medium strength. It is used mostly for furniture but also is used for dimension stock, flooring, crating, fuel, cooperage, and fence posts.

Sugarberry flowers when the leaves first appear in spring, from March to May, depending on latitude. Fruit appears in July and August, ripening into October. The fruit is retained on the tree until midwinter [2].
Most or all leaves are lost by mid-December.

Sugarberry berries

The fruits of sugarberry are eaten by many birds, including the ring-necked pheasant, waterfowl, quail, and ruffed grouse. They are a preferred food of turkeys in fall and winter. Squirrels occasionally eat the fruit, and will also consume buds and bark, but do so rarely. Other game and nongame animals consume the fruit. Cattle will browse sugarberry heavily, especially in winter on poor ranges. White-tailed deer will browse sugarberry, but it has a low preference rating [1].


Sugarberry is native to the southeastern part of the United States, ranging south from southeastern Virginia to southern Florida; west to central Texas and including northeastern Mexico; north to western Oklahoma and southern Kansas; and east to Missouri, extreme southern Illinois, and Indiana. It occurs locally in Maryland.

In many areas, sugarberry occurs as scattered individuals. After disturbances, a seral sugarberry-American elm (Ulmus americana)-green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) forest cover type may develop, with sugarberry as a codominant. This type intermixes with sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)-willow oak (Quercus phellos) types, which contain essentially the same species in different densities. The sugarberry-American elm-green ash type occurs most often on the central coastal plain of the Gulf of Mexico, heavily concentrated on the Mississippi alluvial plain, and along major river basins.

Sugarberry is susceptible to damage by ice, which breaks main stems and branches. Defoliation of sugarberry by the hackberry butterfly (Asterocampa celtis) has been reported, though no tree death or crown die-back was observed.

Sugarberry is used as an ornamental, even though leaf leachate can reduce growth of grasses under the trees due to the presence of ferulic, caffeic, and p-coumaric acids [1].

Metallic Wood-boring Beetle
This Metallic Wood-boring Beetle's host plant is Hackberry.  Agrilus lecontei

The most common insect on Hackberry causes the Hackberry nipple gall. A pouch or gall forms on the lower leaf surface in response to feeding. There are sprays available if you care to reduce this cosmetic problem. Scales of various types may be found on Hackberry. These may be partially controlled with horticultural oil sprays. Several fungi cause leaf spots on Hackberry. The disease is worse during wet weather but chemical controls are seldom needed. Witches broom is caused by a mite and powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew may coat the leaves with white powder. The leaves may be uniformly coated or only in patches. Mistletoe can infest Hackberry, and can can kill a tree over a period of time. It appears as evergreen masses several feet in diameter scattered about the crown [1]. Hackberry psyllid infestations can result in extremely abundant populations, although the trees suffer little damage.


  1. Sullivan, Janet. 1993. Celtis laevigata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
  2. NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY, Field Guide to North American Trees–Chanticleer Press
Tree Encyclopedia / North American Insects & Spiders is dedicated to providing scientific and educational resources for our users through use of large images and macro photographs of flora and fauna.

Family Ulmaceae – Zelkovas, Hackberries and Elms
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.
Ulmaceae Index | Tree Encyclopedia | Trees Index