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Sugarberry has small flowers in spring.

Native to southern Illinois, sugarberry is closely related to a more northern species, common hackberry. Sugarberry has fewer problems with leaf galls and witches broom, which are seen regularly on common hackberry. The bark is also smoother and less warty than that of common hackberry.

Botanical name:

Celtis laevigata

All common names:

sugarberry, sugar hackberry, southern hackberry

Family (English):

Hemp (formerly Elm)

Family (Botanic):

Cannabaceae (formerly Ulmacaeae)

Planting Site:

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

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • 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:

40-60 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Wet soil


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

Acid Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Excessive sucker growth,
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Edible fruit

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Game birds,
  • Sapsuckers,
  • 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, but less so than common hackberry.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Some resistance to witches broom and galls.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to southern part of the United States.  Commonly found in low, wet sites.

Bark color and texture 

The bark of this species shows some of the wartiness of the related species common hackberry, but is overall much smoother.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves, 2 to 4 inches long; simple, ovate to egg-shaped with a smooth surface.  Leaf margin is finely toothed or entire.
Leaves look similar to elm leaves.  Fall color is a poor 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 orange or red.
Ripen in early autumn.

Location of Celtis laevigata (Sugarberry) at the Arboretum