Common Hackberry

common hackberry celtis occidentalis ftimg

Common Hackberry

Celtis occidentalis

Description & Overview

Common Hackberry is a large, Wisconsin native shade tree with a vase shape canopy. It tolerates tough sites and excels in urban plantings. Hackberry has characteristic wart-like bark and dark-red to purple fruits, lending itself well to bird-centric landscapes.

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: Yes
USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 2
Mature Height: 40-60 feet
Mature Spread: 40-60 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate
Growth Form: Upright vase-shaped
Light Requirements: Full Sun
Site Requirements: Tolerates a wide range of soil and moisture conditions
Flower: Polygamomonoecious, insignificant small green flowers
Bloom Period: Late May
Foliage: Medium Green
Fall Color: Sometimes yellow
Urban Approved: Yes
Fruit Notes: Drupe, dark red to purple when ripe, consistent annual production

Seed Provenance

Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties, WI

Suggested Uses:

As it tolerates soils that are light to heavy, wet to dry, Common Hackberry is an ideal street tree. Urban pollution, temperature fluctuations, and heavy winds are not a problem for this tree. It can also be used as a specimen plant, in a tree border, or to naturalize an open space.

celtis occidentalis hackberry #20 container trees at johnson's nursery in wisconsin

Salable #20 Container trees. Pictures take late August.

celtis occidentalis hackberry at johnson's nursery new growth and bark

New growth and corky bark on salable #20 Container trees. Pictures take late August.

We also grow Hackberry in larger, field-grown sizes (harvested as B&B) and in #25 Containers

celtis occidentalis hackberry #25 container and field grown B&B trees trees at johnson's nursery in wisconsin

Salable 1.75-inch Caliper field grown (B&B) trees and #25 Container trees. Cover crops between rows improves soil fertility.

Wildlife Value:

The fruit is eaten by many animals, including Wild Turkey, Cedar Waxwings, Mockingbirds, Robins, and more.

Maintenance Tips:

Common Hackberry should be pruned by a trained arborist every 7-10 years for structure. Deformed branches (Witches Broom) can be removed if they are unsightly. As with all trees, maintaining a good mulch ring around the base will maintain good vigor.

We invite you to check out the Arborist For Hire lookup at the Wisconsin Arborist Association website to find an ISA Certified Arborist near you.

corky bark on celtis occidentalis hackberry wisconsin native trees

Hackberry is an excellent Wisconsin Native option as a street tree, specimen, and in natural park settings.

celtis occidentalis hackberry street trees specimen plant and in parks


Common Hackberry often gets nipple gall, a deformed growth on the leaves caused by insects. This is a purely cosmetic issue and should be considered an ornamental disease.

Witches Broom, a deformity in new twig growth, is caused by the Gall Mite (Eriophyes spp.) and Powdery Mildew. Like Nipple Gall, this disease may be unsightly but will not kill the tree.

Leaf Lore:

Common Hackberry is classified in the same family as Hops (Humulus spp.) and Marijuana (Cannabis spp.).

Hackberry is a corruption of the Scottish word ‘Hagberry’, the name for the Bird Cherry (Prunus avium) found in Britain.

The berries of the tree are edible and ripen in early September. Both the flesh and the seed can be eaten. Timber from Common Hackberry is weak and has poor rot resistance, but is sometimes used for crates and fencing.

Companion Plants:

Common Hackberry is a great addition to a bird garden and can be combined with Serviceberry, Eastern Redcedar, Coneflowers, and Chokeberry to provide food and cover year-round.

common hackberry celtis occidentalis benchcard