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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Common hackberry

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Common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

Kathy Zuzek and Rebecca Koetter

Plant description

Mature height: 75 to 100'
Mature width: 75 to 100'
Growth rate: Medium to fast
Plant form: Pyramidal in youth, spreading rounded in maturity
Deciduous or evergreen: Deciduous
Native range: Labrador and Quebec south to Georgia west to Manitoba and Texas
Native to Minnesota: Yes
Invasive in Minnesota: No


Light: Full sun to partial sun
Soil texture: Prefers sandy loams to clay soils, tolerates other
Soil pH: Prefers 6.6 to 8.0, tolerates lower
Soil moisture: Dry to wet soils and well-drained to poorly drained soils
Hardiness zone: 3 to 9
Pests and stresses: Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Hackberry for a list of the most common hackberry pests and stresses in Minnesota.
Other: Tolerant of wind and ice, short-term flooding, heat, drought, and salt spray.

Common hackberry in the landscape

Hackberry is a large native tree found commonly on river terraces and floodplains in southern and central Minnesota. It is related to the American elm and after the arrival of Dutch elm disease in Minnesota, hackberry often replaced American elms both in native forests and in planted landscapes. C. occidentalis transplants easily as a small bare root plant in spring or as a containerized or balled and burlapped plant throughout the growing season. It establishes easily and grows well in urban landscapes because of its wide soil adaptability and its tolerance of heat, drought salt spray, wind, ice, and short-term flooding. One of the few liabilities of this species is the presence of disfiguring witches brooms that can be seen throughout the crown of some trees during winter. Hackberry is used as a shade tree or a boulevard tree. The fruit is a popular food for birds and small mammalian wildlife.

The bark of hackberry provides year-round interest in landscapes. Bark of young trees appears to be covered with bumpy warts. As trees mature, the bark pattern changes to cork-like ridges. Canopies full of 2 1/2 - 4" dark green leaves provide shade in summer. Fall color is yellow. 1/3-1/2" berry-like fruit called drupes can be seen throughout tree canopies during the season as they change from green to purple or reddish brown in autumn. Each drupe contains one hard seed. Much of the fruit remains on the tree throughout winter until it is eaten by birds.

Warty bark of young common hackberry.

P. Wray, ISU, Bugwood

Warty bark of young common hackberry

Corky ridges of bark on mature common hackberry.

K. Zuzek, UMN Extension

Corky ridges of bark on mature common hackberry

Map of the native range of common hackberry in North America.

USDA Forest Service Agriculture

Native range of common hackberry in North America

Map of the native range of common hackberry in Minnesota.

Minnesota DNR

Native range of common hackberry in Minnesota

Full view of common hackberry tree.

T.D. Sydnor, Ohio State Univ., Bugwood

Plant form of common hackberry

Closeup of common hackberry leaves.

P. Wray, ISU, Bugwood

Common hackberry foliage

Closeup of the fall fruit on a hackberry tree.

K. Zuzek, UMN Extension

Fall fruit of common hackberry

Witches brooms in common hackberry canopies.

W. Cranshaw, Colorado State Univ., Bugwood

Witches brooms in common hackberry canopies


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