Celtis, the genus to which Hackberry belongs, consists of about 60-70 species of trees dispersed widely through the warm temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, in southern Europe, southern and eastern Asia, North America, and central Africa. Celtis had been considered a member of the Elm family, but interestingly they are now placed in the hemp family, Cannabaceae. In North America there are two main species, both of which are tough as nails and quite beautiful, the Northern Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis, and the Southern Hackberry or Celtis laevigata.

They are generally medium to large sized trees, reaching about 60 feet or so, although some rare specimens have exceeded a 100 feet. They have a medium texture and a medium growth-rate. The leaves are alternate, simple, 2-4 inches long, and evenly serrated. It has small flowers which appear in early spring while the leaves are developing. The fruit is a small drupe less than half of an inch in diameter, dry but sweet, with a consistency similar to a date.

There is also a stand-out cuiltivar called 'All Seasons hackberry' or Celtis laevigata ‘All Seasons’. This broad, fast growing deciduous tree is very similar to the species but has some refinements that make it even more desirable. It has a rounded vase shaped crown with spreading branches and drooping tips, reminiscent of the best elms. 'All Seasons’ hackberry has a more uniform crown shape than the species and does not shed twigs. The medium-textured, light green leaves turn bright yellow in fall and can be quite showy. The trunk is particularly beautiful being remarkably smooth and pale grey.

All Seasons hackberry makes a wonderful shade tree as it grows to about 50 feet with a 40 foot spread. It could be grown and used much more in urban areas. It is drought, salt and pollution tolerant and it is wind resistant. It can take wet or dry soils; acid or alkaline. This handsome spreading tree would make a first-rate lawn or street tree, one that is trouble-free and ornamental.

It will prosper in Canada, the US, the UK, New Zealand and especially Australia. As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely found in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.

All Seasons hackberry


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