Celtis occidentalis (Hackberry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Northern Hackberry, Common Hackberry
Family:Cannabaceae (Hemp)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; average to moist soil; hardwood forest, floodplains, river banks,
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:40 to 60 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of male flowers] Male and female flowers are borne separately on the same tree (monoecious), though sometimes perfect flowers (both male and female parts) are also present. Flowers are greenish to yellowish, ¼ inch across, lack petals but have 4 to 6 spreading sepals. Male flowers are in clusters near the base of new branchlets and have 4 to 6 green to brown stamens.

[photo of female flowers] Female flowers arise singly or in pairs from the leaf axils at the tip end of the same branchlet as the males, have a 2-parted, densely fuzzy style atop a green ovary. Perfect flowers have both styles and stamens. Stalks are hairy or smooth, up 3/8 inch long at flowering time, elongating to ¾ inch in fruit.

Leaves and bark: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[scan of leaves] Leaves are simple, alternate, somewhat variable, 2 to 5 inches long, to 3 inches wide, mostly widest near the base, serrated around the edges nearly to the base, tapering to a sharply pointed tip. The base is asymmetrical, rounded to heart-shaped with 2 prominent lateral veins radiating with the midvein from the point where the stalk joins the blade. The upper surface is smooth to rough textured, the lower hairy along major veins. Stalks are smooth or hairy.

[photo of twigs] New twigs are hairy or smooth, green turning reddish to brownish gray with scattered pale lenticels (pores), smooth or hairy the second year and eventually becoming hairless. The terminal buds are typically strongly angled to one side.

[photo of corky bark] Bark becomes deeply furrowed with corky ridges, older bark on mature trees is gray with thick scales. Crowns are generally round, about as broad as tall. Trunks can reach 3 feet diameter at breast height (dbh).

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a round, berry-like drupe, ¼ to nearly ½ inch diameter, ripening from green to dark maroon in late summer. Inside is a single seed.


Hackberry is a common tree of deciduous woods and floodplains and is becoming more common in urban landscapes, tolerating drought and a variety of soil conditions. The fruits are a favorite of Cedar Waxwings and other birds. Hackberry is easily recognized by the corky bark, the sharply angled terminal bud on dormant twigs, and leaves with asymmetrical bases that have 3 prominent veins radiating from the base of the blade. Hackberry nipple galls are also quite common.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken Anoka, Douglas, Polk, Ramsey and Wabasha counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Brenda P - Rural Faribault, 55021
on: 2017-01-09 21:50:39

We planted these in our windbreak 28 years ago. Lots of dead wood.

Posted by: JEAN R - sherburn
on: 2018-01-09 17:06:35

We have a hackberry tree on our property that is over 5 feet around

Posted by: Amy S - LAKE CRYSTAL
on: 2018-07-19 13:07:31

Moved to an old farmstead last fall and have been working on identify all the trees. Have one of these, never heard or seen one before!

Posted by: Randy Patrick - New Market Twnsp
on: 2018-08-21 18:56:46

We have at least one Hackberry (much of our 14 acres is wooded). I've noticed our miniature horses and dog have been really eating the fruit that's fallen and am researching to see if the hackberry fruit is at all toxic to them.

Posted by: Trudy Smith - Rochester
on: 2018-09-12 16:43:25

We have streets lined with these trees. What a mess in the fall when the birds eat the purple berries and eliminate them on our cars and driveways!

Posted by: Tracy Lawler - Minneapolis
on: 2019-04-02 10:44:51

My dog keeps eating the berries that the robins drop on the sidewalk...hope that's ok! She loves them!

Posted by: bruce honnigford - Minnetonka
on: 2020-07-13 18:32:24

These saplings have begun sprouting all over my wooded lot. i hope they can replace the awful boxelders i am trying to cut down.

Posted by: Rhonda Kuehl - Minneapolis uptown
on: 2020-12-02 22:09:35

I planted a hackberry in my yard about 8 to 10 years ago and it has grown nicely and is about 25 or 30 feet tall. One thing I liked about the hackberries was the pretty berries on the tree in the winter. My tree has never had one Barry. Im disappointed. Any explanation? Thank you. Rhonda

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-12-02 22:50:12

Rhonda, have you seen many female flowers on your tree? If not, there will be few fruits.

Posted by: Susan Premo - All over
on: 2023-05-31 07:10:32

Never really noticed them in northern Minnesota but maybe they'll start showing up. They're a beautiful tree, there's a few in our neighborhood. Wish we would've planted a couple in our yard. Like when the warblers migrate through and stop in at the hackberries and eat the seeds in spring.

Posted by: Joshua - NE Mpls
on: 2024-05-20 10:31:11

A nice shaped and tall tree in my neighborhood, but I made the mistake of raking its leaves (and inadvertently the fruits) and using them as a mulch in my garden beds and lawn- the seeds in the fruits readily sprout and I am constantly pulling them from unwanted spaces.

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