Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday's Tree- Hackberry and Sugarberry

These are two different trees.  Both are part of the Celtis genus.  Similar trees in many ways.  This is a tale of two trees. 

A couple years ago I went on a Master Gardener study trip with my Virginia MG group.  I am still using photos and information learned from that trip.  Many trees were identified and photographed.  Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis, another native tree, new to me at the time.  
The hackberry's bark is ridged with corky spurs or warts, especially on more mature trees.   A mature tree will reach heights from 60 to 130 feet.  Interestingly it has a growth spurt between 20 to 40 years, living on average 150- 200 years.  
The native range of this tree is the eastern United States, south into the mountains of North Carolina with some reported spots in Alabama and Mississippi, west to the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, and some parts of northern Texas.

 The alternate leaves on the Hackberry are ovate with serrated margins.  They are glossy green and roughly textured.


Interesting, this tree is polygamo-monoecious.  What is that???  All types of flowers are on this tree, male flowers, female flowers, and perfect flowers (containing both male and female parts).  An insignificant bloom occurs in the spring and berries form.  This berry is a food source for many birds and small mammals.  It is both a nectar and larval host plant for a number of butterflies, Mourning Cloak, Wild Cherry Sphinx, and Question Mark, to name a few. The fruit ripens to a dark reddish purple.   It is edible and sweet, but apparently the seed inside is really hard and can break your tooth should you bite into the fruit.  


The fall color is a muddy yellow.   The stems have a characteristic zig-zag growth pattern.   The stems have prominent lenticels (pores on the stems where gases are exchanged).  These trees are tolerant to various growing conditions, but prefer evenly moist soils.   It is listed as a good urban tree.  
The wood is used for furniture and mill work.  Poorer quality wood is used for crates. 
I used my usual references for this tree, Silvics Manual, VA Tech,  and UCONN
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Fast forward to my woods out front.  New location, lots to explore as many of you readers know.  I come across a small, somewhat hidden tree.  Smooth bark, kind of a zig-zag growth pattern.   


What piqued my interest in this seemingly uninteresting little tree?  These small usual and quite distinctive blooms.   Quite small, two petal, fuzzy white blooms.  The leaves are ovate to heart shaped, smooth margins.



 I kept coming back to this tree, trying to figure out what it was.  


None of my books had pictures of this bloom.  It is so unique.  Surely there was an answer.  I finally asked someone and their answer was 'Hackberry'.  Wait a minute, I have other photos of Hackberry, the leaves are so different.  
The blooms on the Hackberry are also small, like this.  VERY much like this.  But the leaf margins were so different.
I continued to look.  Celtis laevigata, Sugarberry.  I believe I found my answer. 

Native range of C. laevigata is southern Viriginia to Kentucky to North Carolina to Florida, west to Oklahoma and Texas.  This must be it!!  Another common name is Southern Hackberry.  Well, there you are.   The bark is not necessarily warty like the Hackberry, smoother bark.  Yes, mine is very young and is not a good example of what a mature bark would look like.
 Moderate to fast growth in the clay soils, found along the flood plains.  Short lived, 100 years.    Reports say the fruit stays on the tree until mid-winter....mine have disappeared.  The wildlife in my area hasn't read the book.

This is a medium sized tree, growing to a maximum size of 80 feet.  Both Celtis are deciduous, yellow fall foliage.  Sugarberry also have the lenticels and zig-zag twigs.  



Small mammals and birds eat the fruit.  The Hackberry Emporer butterfly benefits from this tree.
The wood is used as veneer woods as it is a light wood that can take light to medium dark stains quite well.   Both trees are prone to nipple gall and mistletoe is a commonly seen parasite in their branches.
My references are Virginia Tech, Silvics Manual,  and Wildflower Center.


There is still a chance I am wrong about this mystery tree in my woods.  Right now it is a stangle of honeysuckle vines, will keep my eyes peeled next spring for more interesting flowers.  Next year I think I will tie a ribbon on one of the branches to make sure I am looking at the right stem later in the season.    If YOU know what this is (different from my guess) please let me know.  Life is a study of the nature around you.


©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

35 comments:

  1. Hmmm, never heard of sugarberry. I am no help as I have not seen this before either. Good luck on your ID.

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    1. Donna, thanks, I am sticking with the Sugarberry ID, but will still look.

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  2. Great post Janet! The local Butterfly Society is advertising Hackberry trees at there annual plant sale this weekend. Like you mentioned, it's a great tree for wildlife. I just might have to pick one up there this weekend!

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    1. Alan, it certainly sounds like a great tree for wildlife in the garden. Your birds would love the berries!

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  3. They both sound like interesting trees. I love that two-petaled flower.

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    1. Alison, they are interesting trees. Hackberry used to be found many places, and now, it isn't planted...so Mother Nature needs to fill in.

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  4. I'm no help either Janet ~ you know so much more about trees than me. The bloom is really interesting tho. I hope you get either a confirmation or a positive i.d.

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    1. Kathleen, I have learned a lot about trees, but certainly have a lot more to learn. I was intrigued by the bloom...certainly caught my eye.

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  5. Janet,

    I learned a lot about hackberries, see them all the time and ignore them mostly. I can't even recall seeing the fruit either. great job and thanks for paying attention to these wonderful trees.

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    1. Randy, I think the berries are eaten a lot sooner than we realize. Hope you are able to see these really cool little blooms.

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  6. Thanks for all this great information on the hackberry, Janet. We have a very old one at the edge of our property, but I've never paid much attention to it and have never noticed any fruit on it. When I was growing up, though, there were several large hackberries in our front yard that were planted by my grandfather. They must have been a popular variety--or maybe cheap--back in the early 1900's. They were large, grand old trees. Unfortunately, my dad has had to cut them all down the past few years, due to storm damage. I spent a lot of time as a girl playing make-believe under those big trees.

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    1. Rose, I think Mother Nature planted a lot of these trees over the years and when we make choices of something to plant, this isn't usually on the list. Sorry your mature ones were damaged from storms and had to be taken down. Glad this brought back some good memories.

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  7. Great post! I've never noticed the flowers of either hackberry or sugarberry before - next spring I'll be looking for them.

    Since we moved here almost 6 years ago, I've discovered that we actually have 3 Celtis species on our property: hackberry, sugarberry and dwarf hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia). I first noticed hackberry, sprouting up everywhere. Then I noticed a "hackberry" that seemed to have a smoother leaf with fewer teeth...and realized it was sugarberry. Just a year or two ago I realized that the "stunted hackberries" growing up in the fencerows were actually the third species.

    I love Celtis! As an old prof of mine said, "Everything eats it and nothing kills it." This tree seems to weather anything that mother nature throws at it - which is very important around here these last few years. And the wildlife loves it too.

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    1. Gaia, Will remind everyone when I see mine blooming so you can look in your area to see if you can find the blooms. I am impressed that you have three different Celtis on your property. Love the quote from your prof.

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  8. Sorry I can't help you with the tree as they are not grown here further north by far. I'm always going through a similar exercise with unknowns on our farm as most of the land is virgin. Amazing what you find!

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    1. Sensible gardening, I appreciate your visit. I love exploring the land in our woods...have found some interesting plant material. Glad you are doing the same!

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  9. We had to replace a dying maple on our parkway a couple of years ago. The city gives homeowners a choice of six different trees, and I chose eastern hackberry. I have noticed more question mark butterflies since then.

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    1. Jason, I am glad you chose a hackberry! The sighting of more Question Mark butterflies is wonderful!!

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  10. I love learning more about trees from your blog, even if I may never get to see them in person. You have done some amazing detective work here.

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  11. I find identifying trees a bit difficult. I have several books and the internet to refer too but still am puzzled at times…

    How exciting growing your own mushrooms! I wish they were not so many dangerous ones as we have tons in our woods after a rainfall. It will be interesting following this new adventure with you…

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    1. Skeeter, yes making tree IDs is difficult. There are a few that I have continued to look at, trying to figure out what they might be.
      Hoping the mushrooms are a success. Cross your fingers!!

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  12. I love Tuesdays Trees. I am surrounded by woods, but I know so few tree names. There is almost always someone who enters a tree exhibit at our town fair with twig samples. I own a twig and fruit key but I have never used it seriously. You are inspiring me.

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    1. Commonweeder, thanks so much. I am glad you are inspired!! There are a lot of past posts you can refer to for some help with IDs. I just take one tree at a time.

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  13. Gee, I don't know trees! I'm glad there are experts like you to educate us!

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    1. Freda, I would not consider myself an expert!! You are too kind.

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  14. I'm rotten at identifying trees. I've never heard of a sugarberry but it sounds tasty. I like any tree that lives 150+ years!! :o)

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    1. Tammy, I am surprised you think you are rotten at tree ID. Yes -- a long lived tree is really nice.

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  15. If I miss trees, I know where to go, Janet! Your blog is priceless for tree lovers. It reminds us that a tree isn't just one big thing. It's seedpods and bark and branches and blooms... Thank you!

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    1. Tatyana, You have so many gorgeous trees in your area! thank you for your kind words. Yes, I am fascinated by all parts of a tree.

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  16. Janet I have heard of this tree but never have seen it here...a native tree to consider though as I contemplate replacing some trees. More on that in a post next month.

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    1. Donna, you probably have seen this tree and not realized it. Yes, consider it to replace other trees. I look forward to your upcoming post.

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  17. I read somewhere that Hackberry will grow in all 48 of the continental states. It is not my favorite, but I give it major points for thriving in adverse conditions.

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    1. Les, it is an amazing tree. I know on my MG trip the Hackberry was said with a little disdain.

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  18. I've been trying to find out if i got a "witch hazel tree" the leaves look the same as witch hazel tree leaves but the stem and branches are zig zag this tree i have has to be around a year or 2 years old its not that big at all the new branches are a light green color then turn a tan color as they get older,

    i thought it was a cherry tree at first because i planted a bunch of the seeds in the pot and put it outside but being outside a bird could have left a seed in the pot and now im wondering what kind of tree i have in my pot,

    if this isn't a cherry tree it has to be a witch hazel tree or shrub i have seen some other tree i think elm or something with zig zag stems but the leaves don't look like elm tree leaves they look like witch hazel tree leaves with a zig zag stem the leaf shape is heart shaped and is serrated the underside of the leaf is light green the top is green and smooth or kind of shinny and it has spots on the stem as well but those are hard to even notice and when i transplanted it, it had small roots and its not a Hackberry tree because of the leaf.

    www.painter_in_oils_925@yahoo.com

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