The Hackberry Family: Great Wildlife Trees

The Hackberry Family: Great Wildlife Trees

Hackberries (Celtis sp.) are medium-sized trees with excellent wildlife value. Related to the elm family, they produce small, sweet fruits that are popular with many song birds, game birds, and small mammals. Hackberries are also edible by humans and are used in jellies and wine, among other foods. Hackberries are used as caterpillar host plants by a number of butterfly species, including the Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor, Question Mark, American Snout, and Mourning Cloak.

The most common hackberry species in North America is the Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), which is native to much of the continental United States. A highly adaptable tree, the Common Hackberry grows in most types of soil and tolerates both sun and shade.

Other native hackberry species include:

  • Spiny hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana)
  • Iguana hackberry (Celtis iguanaea)
  • Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)
  • Dwarf hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia)

Hackberries are somewhat weak and susceptible to wind and ice damage, and their berries are considered messy by some. They also have shallow surface roots that can interfere with lawn mowers. For these reasons, they are best suited to rural areas or naturalistic plantings where a little sloppiness is acceptable.

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