Celtis occidentalis L.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Celtis occidentalis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/celtis/celtis-occidentalis/). Accessed 2024-05-27.


Common Names

  • Hackberry


Narrowing gradually to a point.
Sharply pointed.
Sediments deposited by rivers or soils derived from such material.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
With an unbroken margin.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
globularSpherical or globe-shaped.
Lance-shaped; broadest in middle tapering to point.
midveinCentral and principal vein in a leaf.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
Rough to the touch as a result of minute projections. scabrid Slightly less rough.
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Celtis occidentalis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/celtis/celtis-occidentalis/). Accessed 2024-05-27.

A tree normally 30 to 40 ft high in the wild state, but taller in the rich alluvial soils of the Mississippi Basin; bark grey, rough, with warty excrescences; young branchlets glabrous or downy. Leaves ovate-lanceolate to broadly ovate, rounded or heart-shaped at the base, taper-pointed, 2 to 412 in. long, sharply toothed, smooth or scabrous above, downy on the midrib and the veins beneath. Fruit 13 in. across, globose, yellowish or reddish, finally dark purple when ripe, borne on a slender stalk 13 to 23 in. long

Native of the United States from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains, and of E. Canada. This tree is variable in regard to stature, foliage, form and colour of fruit, etc.; but these variations although great are not clearly correlated. East of the Appalachians it makes a small tree with broadly ovate leaves, more or less rounded at the base. This is the typical state, introduced in 1656. In var. canina (Raf.) Sarg., the leaves are more narrowly ovate and finely tapered at the apex. More distinct is:

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

[C. pumila] – The correct name for the species once considered to be the C. pumila of Pursh is C. tenuifolia Nutt. It is a shrub or small tree. Leaves of thinnish texture, entire or almost so except on strong shoots, ovate or oblongovate, up to about 312 in. long, short-acuminate or acute at the apex. Fruits smaller than in C. occidentalis, 14 to 38 in. wide, spherical, usually red or orange. Native of the southern and central USA. There are several examples at Kew. C. tenuifolia var. georgiana (Small) Fern. & Schubert differs in its thicker leaves somewhat scabrous above.

The true C. pumila Pursh is a form or variety of C. occidentalis, differing from the typical state not so much in its dwarf as in its thinner, smooth leaves and in its differently shaped and differently coloured fruits. The species itself sometimes occurs in a dwarf form.

C pumila (Muhl.) Pursh

C. occidentalis var. pumila Muhl

A shrub or small tree to 15 ft high. Leaves smaller than in C. occidentalis, downy on both sides when young, later glabrous; margins almost untoothed. It ranges to the west (Colorado, Utah, etc.) and was introduced to Kew from the Arnold Arboretum in 1905.

var. cordata (Pers.) Willd.

C. occidentalis. var. crassifolia (Lam.) Gray

This is chiefly distinguished by its invariably downy young shoots, and its often heart-shaped, much larger leaves (2 to 6 in. long, 1 to 3 in. wide), very rough on the upper surface. In cultivation this is a vigorous tree, making arching or pendulous shoots several feet long in a season, clothed with big leaves sometimes as much as 7 in. by 4{1/2} in.This variety is commonest west of the Appalachians. It also appears to be the form in which the species is most commonly seen in cultivation in Europe. It was introduced, according to Loudon, in 1812, but probably earlier.