TREES & plants

Hackberry

Common hackberry has an unusal, warty bark.

The hackberry is a Chicago-area native and a sturdy, tolerant shade tree for streets and parkways, or parks and other large areas. Its fleshy, purple-brown berries ripen in late summer and persist through winter. The persistent fruits attract many birds that also find the tree to be a suitable nesting site.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name: 
Celtis occidentalis
All Common Names: 
hackberry
Family (English): 
Hemp (formerly Elm)
Family (Botanic): 
Cannabaceae (formerly Ulmacaeae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median, 
  • Restricted sites
Landscape Uses: 
  • Parkway/street, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
40-60 feet
Mature Width: 
40-50 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 2, 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Prefers
Salt Spray: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Highly susceptible to ice damage, 
  • Weak wood and branch structure
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color, 
  • Edible fruit, 
  • Persistent fruit/seeds, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval, 
  • Round, 
  • Vase-shaped
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate, 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Cavity-nesting birds, 
  • Game birds, 
  • Game mammals, 
  • Migrant birds, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

A relatively low-maintenance tree.
Prune during dormant season.

Disease, pests and problems

Susceptible to witch’s broom and hackberry nipple gall.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Very tolerant of many soil and weather conditions.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 3
Found in a variety of habitats.

Bark color and texture 

Smooth grayish bark when young, but develops  corky warts and ridges with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves, 2 to 4 inches long; simple, ovate to egg-shaped with a dull, rough surface.
Leaves look similar to elm leaves.
Fall color is yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous; some flowers are male, some female and some perfect.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A  single fleshy berry-like drupe, 1/3 inch diameter, starts out green changing to  a deep purple-brown.
Ripen in late summer, persisting through winter.

Celtis occidentalis or Hackberry