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Common hackberry has an unusal, warty bark.

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.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Celtis occidentalis

All common names:


Family (English):

Hemp (formerly Elm)

Family (Botanic):

Cannabaceae (formerly Ulmacaeae)

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

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

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • 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


  • Cavity-nesting birds,
  • Game birds,
  • Game mammals,
  • Migrant birds,
  • Songbirds

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Full sun in well drained soil, pH tolerant
A relatively low-maintenance tree
Prune during dormant season

Disease, pests and problems

Heavy aerial salt can cause 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.
Medium green leaves turn a yellow fall color

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.

Cultivars and their differences

Chicagoland Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis 'Chicagoland'): 50 feet high and 40 feet wide; a neat upright-oval habit of growth and a strong central leader, narrower than the species

Magnifica Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis 'Magnifica'): 50 feet high and 40 feet wide; broadly oval to vase shaped

Prairie Pride Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis 'Prairie Pride'): A uniform, compact oval crown reaching 50 feet high and 40 feet wide; thick leathery foliage, resistant to witches broom

Prairie Sentinel Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis 'JFS-KSU1'): A tightly columnar, fastigiate habit; 45 feet high and 12 feet wide

Ultra™ Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis 'Ulzam'):A rounded habit reaching 50 feet wide and 40 feet wide; blue-green foliage

Location of Celtis occidentalis (Hackberry) at the Arboretum