Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont

Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White

Celtis laevigata Willd. Southern hackberry, hackberry, sugarberry. Synonyms Celtis laevigata var. smallii (Beadle) Sarg., Celtis mississippiensis Bosc, Celtis smallii Beadle. Family Cannabaceae. ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number 19042. USDA PLANTS Symbol CELA. TROPICOS # 33300075.

Images • Branchlet with buds. • Close-up of buds. • Herbarium sheet 1. • Herbarium sheet 2. • Herbarium sheet 3.

Brief Description: A medium to large-sized deciduous tree, usually 20–30 m (65–100 ft.) tall when mature. Older twigs have chambered pith, which sometimes becomes hollow. Bark is usually light gray and smooth, but often bears a few scattered to many warty outgrowths. Leaves are alternate, typically small to medium sized (6–8 cm long), usually twice as long wide, with a long-pointed tip. Leaves are usually lanceolate, ovate or oval shaped, and often curve to one side. Leaf margins are mostly untoothed, but a few (rarely many) small teeth may be present. Leaves bear 3 prominent veins that branch from the base of the leaf blade. Flowers occur in small clusters, with functionally unisexual female and male flowers on the same tree, occasionally with male and females flowers combined. Fruits are small (0.4–0.9 cm long) drupes that are usually orangish-red in color, sometimes purple. Southern Hackberry occurs most commonly in bottomland forests of the Piedmont, where it often grows along the edges of rivers and streams.

Detailed Description:

Plant habit and life style. Plants Angiosperms, monoecious or polygamous, (15–)20–30(–40) m tall.

Stems. Pith chambered or continuous or hollow. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) brown or green or reddish-brown, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous. Leaf scars crescent-shaped or oval, bundle scars 3 per leaf scar, stipule scars inconspicuous. Bark of mature trunks ridged or smooth or warty.

Buds. Buds axillary, brown or reddish-brown, 1.5–3.2 mm long, ovoid, sharp, pubescent, puberulent, bud scales imbricate.

Leaves. Leaves deciduous, simple, petiolate, alternate, distichous, (4–)6–8(–15) cm long, (1.1–)3–4(–6) cm wide, falcate or lanceolate or oval or ovate, leaf margins entire or dentate or serrate or ciliate, leaf apices acuminate or acute or caudate, leaf bases cuneate or oblique or obtuse or rounded. Leaf upper surface green or yellow-green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf lower surface green or yellow-green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf venation palmate. Petioles 0.6–1.3 cm long, glabrous. Stipules present, caducous.

Flowers. Flowering March or April or May. Inflorescences axillary, fascicles or flowers solitary, flowers sessile or stalked. Flowers unisexual or pistillate or staminate, hypogynous. Perianth. Calyx radially symmetric, aposepalous. Sepals 4–6 per flower, green, lanceolate or ovate, glabrous or pubescent, puberulent, persistent. Corolla absent. Androecium. Stamens 4–6 per flower, separate. Gynoecium. Ovaries superior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium syncarpous, 2 carpels per flower, styles 2 per pistil, placentation apical.

Fruits. Fruits drupes, 0.4–0.9 cm long, brown or orange or purple or red or yellow, fruit maturation 1 years.

Habitat. Habitat bottomland forests or mesic upland forests or mixed forest edges or suburban plantings.

Cite this publication as: ‘Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White (2005 onwards). Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont: Identification, Descriptions, Illustrations, and Glossary. Version: March 7, 2006. <>’.

Back to Contents