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Hackberry

Celtis laevigata

Other common name(s):

Sugarberry

Family:

Cannabaceae (Hemp Family)

Plant Ecoregion Distribution Map

Cross Timbers, East Central Texas Plains, Edwards Plateau, Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes, Southern Texas Plains, Southwestern Tablelands, Texas Blackland Prairies, Western Gulf Coastal Plain
Carbonate Cross Timbers, Eastern Cross Timbers, Grand Prairie, Limestone Cut Plain, Western Cross Timbers
Bastrop Lost Pines, Floodplains and Low Terraces2, Northern Post Oak Savanna, Northern Prairie Outliers, San Antonio Prairie, Southern Post Oak Savanna
Balcones Canyonlands, Edwards Plateau Woodland, Llano Uplift
Coastal Sand Plain, Floodplains and Low Terraces4, Laguna Madre Barrier Island and Coastal Marshes, Lower Rio Grande Alluvial Floodplain, Lower Rio Grande Valley, Northern Humid Gulf Coastal Prairies, Southern Subhumid Gulf Coastal Prairies, Texas-Louisiana Coastal Marshes
Northern Nueces Alluvial Plains, Rio Grande Floodplain and Terraces, Semiarid Edwards Bajada, Texas-Tamaulipan Thornscrub
Caprock Canyons Badlands Breaks
Floodplains and Low Terraces1, Northern Blackland Prairie, Southern Blackland Prairie
Flatwoods, Floodplains and Low Terraces3, Southern Tertiary Uplands

Plant Characteristics

Growth Form

Tree

Height

60
to
80
ft.

Spread

20
to
30
ft.

Leaf Retention

Deciduous

Lifespan

Perennial

Habitat and Care Requirements

Soil Type(s)

Sand, Loam, Clay, Caliche, Well Drained

Light Requirement

Sun, Part Shade

Water Requirement

Low, Medium

Native Habitat

Woodland

Bloom and Attraction

Bloom Color

Green

Bloom Season

Spring

Seasonal Interest

Berry, Fall Color, Larval Host

Wildlife Benefit

Butterflies, Birds

Maintenance

Some consider this a trash tree. The bias some people have against it is not completely without cause. The wood can be brittle and weak, even more so when the tree becomes infected with parasitic mistletoe. Branching structure tends toward tight, vee-shaped crotches that are prone to splitting. They are also affected by various problems that can be unattractive, such as Nipple Leaf Gall and Witches’ Broom. Even given these concerns, consider the following. It adapts well to a range of soil types and the poor-quality soils common in urban areas. It is highly tolerant of heat and drought, shallow rooted, fast growing; and can live to 150 years. They provide an estimated $3 billion per year in services, such as: shade that reduces electricity usage; filtration of air pollution; control of storm water and flooding; and reduced erosion. Far from being trashy, Sugarberries are vital part of our urban forest. Weak limbs can be pruned away from buildings. Mistletoe can be removed from the tree. Galls that form on leaves are not harmful to the tree. Add mulch to improve drought tolerance. Propagation: Seed, Sucker transplant, Softwood cuttings. (https://www.austintexas.gov/blog/species-spotlight-celtis-laevigata-sugarberry)

Comments

Medium-sized tree with a broad, rounded, open crown of spreading or slightly drooping branches. Bark light gray, smooth or covered with knobby warts as the tree ages. Leaves are oval to lance-shaped, with a long, tapering tip, and an unequal base, which is tapered on one side and rounded on the other. Flowers are solitary or few-flowered clusters at the base of leaves. The small, round fruit starts green, turning reddish-brown. Considered to be one of the best food and shelter plants for wildlife. Birds love the seeds. Larval Host; Hackberry Emperor and American Snout, Morning Cloak, Question Mark butterflies. Replaces Invasives: Chinaberry.

References

1) Griffith, Bryce, Omernick & Rodgers (2007). Ecoregions of Texas. 2) https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CELA. 3) https://portal.torcherbaria.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Celtis+laevigata&formsubmit=Search+Terms. 4) http://bonap.net/TDC/Image/Map?taxonType=Species&taxonId=7090&locationType=County&mapType=Normal. 5) Miller, George O., Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas 2nd Ed., 2013, pg 48, 52. 6) Wasowski and Wasowski, Native Texas Plants Landscaping Region by Region, 1991, pg. 333. 7) https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=19042#null
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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason