Northern hackberry, commonly known as the common hackberry, is a large deciduous tree native to North America. It is also known as the nettletree, sugarberry, beaverwood, and American hackberry. It is a moderately long-lived hardwood with a light-colored wood, yellowish gray to light brown with yellow streaks. The Northern hackberry is easily distinguished from elms and some other hackberries by its cork-like bark with wart-like protuberances. The leaves are distinctly asymmetrical and coarse-textured. It produces small fruits that turn orange-red to dark purple in the autumn, often staying on the trees for several months. The Northern hackberry is easily confused with the sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) and is most easily distinguished by range and habitat. It also has wider leaves that are coarser above than the sugarberry.

Northern Hackberry Facts

  • Scientific name: Celtis occidentalis
  • Range: across the East and Great Plains, northward from Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia
  • Height: up to 80 feet tall
  • Fruit: produces hard, red berries that many species of birds eat
  • Fall colors: leaves turn yellow
  • Closely related to the sugarberry, although the hackberry’s bark is rougher and more corky, and its leaves are broader with toothed edges.

If Trees Could Sing…

Click here to see Farmer Jason, aka Jason Ringenberg, talk about one of his favorite trees. Video courtesy of The Nature Conservancy and Jason Ringenberg.

Picture above taken at Old Town Arboretum in April 2021