Celtis occidentalis - American Hackberry
Family: Ulmaceae

Hear the scientific name

Celtis occidentalis is a tough tree for urban or rural sites, growing rapidly to provide shade, windbreak, and/or erosion control under stressful conditions.

Alternate common name: Common Hackberry

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  form Form

-large deciduous tree

-maturing at 70' tall x 50' wide

-upright oval growth habit in youth, quickly losing its central leader and becoming rounded to irregular in habit with age

-rapid growth rate

foliage2 foliage Foliage

-alternate arrangement; medium green color

-serrated, ovate, with the base of the leaf skewed (unsymmetrical or lop-sided, like the foliage of most Elm Family members, called an oblique leaf base)

-often gets nipple gall in spring

-autumn color yellowish green to green


-greenish-yellow in Apr.-May, a mixture of staminate, pistillate, and perfect flowers, giving a fine texture and lime color to the tree in early spring as the foliage begins to emerge


-greenish small round fruits in leaf axils, changing to orange or purple in color at maturity in Sept.-Oct. and devoured by birds


-light gray, zigzag and irregular in growth pattern

-sometimes affected with witches' brooms

-stems have no terminal buds and are often knobby

-lateral stems often die back a few inches to give a ragged appearance to the ends of branches

trunk2 trunk Trunk

-light gray to gray-green

-very corky to warty ornamental bark, slowly becoming platy with age

-often to 3' or more in diameter on old trees, with significant basal flair

-wood is much stronger than Silver Maple (another quick shade tree)

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-full sun

-prefers moist soils but is adaptable to many adverse conditions, including wet or dry sites and poor soils

-propagated primarily by seed but also by rooted stem cuttings or grafted onto seedling understock

-Elm Family, with several diseases and pests, but not including Dutch elm disease

-witches' broom is a dense clustering of miniature stems and foliage, caused by the combination of a mite and a fungus

-nipple gall on summer and autumn foliage is a cosmetic leaf disease

-chlorotic foliage in summer is indicative of alkaline soils that result in manganese deficiency to the tree

-moderate availability, usually B&B

-often a volunteer tree in waste sites, fence rows, etc. that is left for shade or windbreak function (or is too big to conveniently cut down)

distribution map


-zones 2 to 9


-native to floodplains of the Eastern U.S.

U   S   A   G   E


-urban tolerant (dry sites, soil compaction, pollution, wind, heat, acid or alkaline soil tolerant), ornamental bark, rapid growth, adaptable to wet sites


-poor autumn color, gets very large for urban areas (in canopy height and width, and trunk girth)

-leaf (nipple gall) and twigs (witches' broom) exhibit cosmetic diseases

-causes bird waste litter in early autumn due to their fruit over-consumption

-shedding twigs and occasional twigs winter dieback

-chlorotic foliage in alkaline soils is the result of manganese deficiency


-shade tree (for highly stressed, poor soil, or wet soil sites where rapid growth is needed), deciduous windbreak, pioneer invader tree


-medium texture overall in foliage and when bare (fine-textured twigs, but bold and irregular branching pattern)

-average density in foliage but thick when bare

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Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species


-large shade trees for stressful sites where poor environmental conditions exist (Ailanthus altissima, Fraxinus americana, Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis, Morus rubra, Ulmus parvifolia, etc.)

-large shade trees with ornamental bark (Betula nigra, Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus americana, Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis, Ulmus parvifolia, etc.)


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