Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) - Zone 3
Characteristics of the tree
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Common Hackberry is a medium sized deciduous tree native to much of central and eastern North America. They generally reach heights of up to 15 meters, or even more in ideal conditions. Trunks can reach diameters of 50 centimeters and expected lifespan is between 150 to 200 years. Hackberries exhibit an upright form with a generally rounded crown, and branches starting relatively high on the trunk. These tough trees have very extensive root systems and are able to withstand almost any environmental conditions. They do well in full sun or partial shade and will grow in an incredible variety of soil conditions, handling wide pH ranges and both extended flooding and drought. They are also very tolerant of urban conditions. They will do best in moist, rich and well-drained soil. The dark purple berries ripen around September or October. They are small, less than half an inch (1 cm) in diameter, but are pleasantly sweet and persist through the winter.
These trees’ extreme versatility and tolerance to road salt and air pollution makes them a great tree for urban plantations. The fact that the branches generally start high on the trunk avoids clearance problems with sidewalks, etc. They are a good alternative to elms as shade trees, being similar in size and shape but with no susceptibility to Dutch elm disease. They transplant and establish quite easily in most situations. The fruit are a favourite for birds but should not be overlooked for human consumption: they are agreeably sweet and are loaded with vitamins, although their large seed cannot be eaten, and the height of the tree can impede harvest somewhat when it is fully mature (not before 20 years or so). Hackberries have few serious pest problems.