One of the most widely distributed trees in the eastern part of the country is the hackberry tree (Celtis occidentals). In Frederick County, you are most likely to find a hackberry growing in a wide floodplain, alluvial terrace, or hedgerow in the western part of the county around Jefferson, Middletown, or Myersville.

Hackberries seem to prefer somewhat shady conditions, not direct sunlight. Hackberries have a simple, asymmetrical leaf that usually turns yellow in the fall. The silvery – grey bark of the hackberry has very distinct cork-like ridges that really make the tree stand out, especially during the winter. Hackberries grow quickly and become large and long-lived, especially on fertile sites. The fruits form on a slender stem in September or October, and can remain on the tree throughout the fall. These fruits are fed upon by a number of birds, especially cedar wax wings. Hackberries can tolerate a variety of soil conditions, and can grow quite well on alkaline soils, along with trees like eastern red cedar, honey locust, black cherry, and elm. Hackberries tolerance of diverse soil conditions and distinctive shape make them somewhat popular trees for ornamental plantings. The wood of the hackberry is tannish-white, looking a little like mulberry or elm. Hackberry has limited commercial appeal, because the tree is not very common, the wood is prone to staining, and is not very rot-resistant. In recent years, this distinctive and very pliable wood has found favor in the crafts industry. Native Americans used hackberry tonic to treat throat ailments and made a reddish brown dye from the leaves and twigs. One thing that can be said about hackberry is that it is “distinctive.”

Article by FCFCDB

Photos credit: frederick.forestryboard.org - Bethany Dell'Agnello

Nature note for 7/17/21