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Celtis

Hackberry
Ulmaceae
Deciduous, Trees

Related to elms (Ulmus) and similar to them in most details, but smaller. All have virtue of deep rooting; old trees in narrow planting strips expand in trunk diameter to nearly fill strips without producing surface roots or heaving sidewalk or curb. Good choice for street or lawn tree, even near buildings or paving. Canopy casts moderate shade in spring and summer; leaves turn yellow in fall. Mature trees have picturesque bark with corky warts and ridges. Small berrylike fruits attract birds.

Hackberry is exceptionally tough, tolerating strong winds (stake young trees until well established), desert heat, and dry, alkaline soils. Leaf gall caused by psyllids may disfigure hackberry leaves in some regions (especially in the Rocky Mountain states and Pacific Northwest), but the trees are not harmed. Little pruning required. Bare-root plants, especially in larger sizes, sometimes fail to leaf out.

Celtis occidentalis (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Celtis occidentalis (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Celtis occidentalis

Native to eastern North America. Grows to 50 ft. or taller and nearly as wide, with a rounded crown and spreading, sometimes pendulous branches. Bright green, oval leaves, 2–5 in. long, with finely toothed edges. Tree does not leaf out until midspring. Resistant to oak root fungus.

Celtis pallida

Native to southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Small tree or shrub with dense, spiny growth to 18 ft. tall; variable in width, sometimes growing wider than tall. Small orange berries. Useful in desert areas as a honey source or bird food, for screen or barrier planting, for erosion control.

Celtis reticulata (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)
Celtis reticulata (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)

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Celtis reticulata

Native to eastern Washington, northern Oregon, Idaho, through intermountain area to Utah, and in mountains of Arizona and Southern California. Grows to 25–30 ft. tall and wide, with somewhat pendulous branches. Oval, tooth-edged leaves to 2 1/2 in. long, pale beneath, strongly veined.

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