Common hackberry

Micocoulier occidental

Celtis occidentalis L.Ulmaceae (elm family)

Origin: Eastern North America (native in Ontario)


Common hackberry is a small- to medium-sized tree, with a broad rounded crown.

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Leaves have a long-tapering tip and a rounded asymmetrical base.

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Separate male and female flowers are very small and inconspicuous. .

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Fruits are small, round, reddish-purple, and hang singly on slender stalks.

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Common hackberry is a small- to medium-sized tree, to about 15 m (50') tall and 50 cm (20") in diameter. The crown is broad and rounded.

Bark is grey or yellowish-brown with distinctive corky ridges.

As the trees age, the corky ridges become more pronounced. On much older trees, the bark becomes scaly.

Twigs are greenish-brown and covered in fine hairs and pores (lenticels).

Buds are 6 - 8 mm (1/4") long with pointed tips and lie flat against the twig.

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Leaves are 6 - 9 cm (2 1/4" - 3.5") long with a tapering tip, a rounded asymmetrical base, and toothed edges.

Leaves are arranged alternately on the branch.

In the fall, the leaves turn yellow.

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Separate male and female flowers are very small and inconspicuous. They appear in spring, with the leaves.

Male (pollen) flowers are borne in clusters at the base of new shoots.

Female (seed) flowers are borne singly in the axils of the leaves.

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Fruits are small, round, about 6 - 8 mm (1/4") across, and hang singly on slender stalks.

Fruits ripen from green through reddish-purple to dark purple.

Fruits mature in September or October, but may remain on the tree during winter.

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Native hackberries

Common hackberry is one of two species in the genus Celtis that is native to Canada. The other species, dwarf hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia), was previously thought to be a variety of common hackberry. It can be distinguished by its smaller size, smaller, orange-brown fruit and smaller, broader leaves. Dwarf hackberry is very rare in Ontario and is listed as a threatened species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

Derivation of names

The genus name, Celtis, is the classical Latin name for the African lotus (Ziziphus lotus in the family Rhamnaceae); a reference to hackberry's sweet fruit. The species name, occidentalis, means western or of the Western hemisphere. The name "hackberry" may derive from "hagberry," meaning "marsh berry," which is a word used in Scotland for bird cherry (Prunus avium), which has fruit that is similar in appearance.


Common hackberry is fairly long-lived, sometimes reaching 200 years.

Human use and wildlife value

The sweet fruits of common hackberry are eaten by small mammals or game birds. The wood of common hackberry is heavy but soft, and has little commercial value beyond the manufacture of boxes, furniture, and plywood.

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Common hackberry IN TORONTO

Common hackberry's place in Toronto's urban forest

Common hackberry, a member of the Elm family, has become a popular alternative to elm trees for the last few decades. because it is immune to Dutch elm disease.

Landscape value and potential for home planting

Common hackberry is well suited to urban environments because it is hardy and adaptable to a range of conditions. It is tolerant of some shade, but with too much, may develop poorly.

Pests and diseases: Common hackberry may become infected by a gall mite (Eriophyes spp) and a powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca phytophila), which can cause bushy growths of small, upright branches - a symptom called witches' broom. Several species of gall-producing insects may infest common hackberry trees and lay eggs on their leaves, but otherwise do not cause serious damage.

This tree is available for planting through the City of Toronto's street tree program and LEAF's backyard tree program .

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WHERE CAN I SEE Common hackberry?

Links to maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

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