Plant Encyclopedia

Western Hackberry

Celtis occidentalis

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Western Hackberry, tall tree with green leathery foliage

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For those who want a large shade tree, you should consider the Western Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). The hackberry is well-suited for urban environments. As the tree matures, it develops a deep root system that is drought-tolerant, wind-resistant, and adaptable to various soils. The Western hackberry can be planted near sidewalks and pavements without the fear it will crack asphalt or concrete. This hardy tree makes a great natural element to any space.

Plant Attributes

This deciduous tree is native to the Colorado area. It features oval-shaped leaves that are approximately two to four inches long, and they grow to two inches wide. The leaves taper to a sharp tip at the edges. In the spring, the tree produces small greenish flowers. By summer, you will see small orange-reddish fruit. With these fruits, you can expect birds to flock into your yard from the late summer to early fall. In the fall, the leaves will turn a yellow color before they drop from the tree.

The Western Hackberry develops a broad crown with arching branches. On the trunk and branches, you can expect to see corky ridges on the surface. The Hackberry will grow to a height of 40 to 60 feet, and it matures to a spread of 40 to 60 feet. The growth rate of this tree is medium to fast, and many trees have height increases of 13 to 24 inches per year. For those familiar with the growth pattern of elm trees, this species grows in a similar manner without the disease issues. As the tree matures, this hackberry develops into a vase-like shape.

Landscape Use

If you want to add character or shade to your landscape, then the Western hackberry is a great choice for your space. This tree can be used as a boulevard or shade tree, and it establishes quickly with its adaptability to various conditions. You can often find these trees planted as windbreaks or wildlife habitats. The Hackberry’s sturdy trunks are also used for firewood or fence posts.

Planting & Care

The Western Hackberry can grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9. This hackberry will tolerate environmental issues, including heat, droughts, pollution, strong winds, and salt. It needs full sun for the best growing conditions. If you are planting the tree, the hackberry needs at least six hours of direct and unfiltered sunlight every day. This tree can adapt to alkaline, acidic, moist, sandy, and clay soils. It is hardy in many other environments and has some tolerance for droughts and flooding.

When planting a Western hackberry in your landscape, these trees should be kept 12 feet from other structures to allow for growth. Mature trees grow to 25 to 50 feet tall with a rounded and dense canopy. Young hackberry trees need moist soil to begin the growing process. Once the tree is established, the roots will not require too much water. With the younger trees, the branches can grow irregularly. You should prune the branches to shape the central trunk and canopy.

The Western hackberry is an excellent alternative to elm trees, and it is almost disease-free (Very susceptible to Nipple Gall, a parasitic insect that creates a home of plant tissue on the underside of the leaves. They do not harm the tree, however, and are only cosmetic.). These trees are resistant to root fungus. However, you will need to watch out for the occasional aphid attack.

Additional Information

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Western Hackberry


If you want a hardy tree for your landscape, make sure to choose the Western Hackberry. You can find these trees in a wide range of soil conditions throughout the United States. These Hackberry trees can thrive in a broad range of temperatures, and they stand up to air pollution and strong winds. The corky bark and leathery foliage add a unique look at your landscape. In the late summer, the reddish-purple berries attract wild birds. Those green leaves will turn a golden yellow color in the fall. All these features make this tree a great landscaping choice, especially if you want a shade tree without too much work. The Western Hackberry will be an attractive addition to your space.

Arbor Valley Nursery is ready to help with your landscaping business. We carry a wide range of trees, plants, and shrubs, including the Western Hackberry. You can add this hardy tree to your landscape and get the right amount of shade for your space. If you have any questions about the Western hackberry, please take a few minutes to fill out the contact form.

Plant Features

  • Description: Hardy shade tree with widespread, upright arching branches and light green foliage creating an open, airy appearance. The foliage turns yellow in the fall. Fruit ripens to red in fall. Hardy to -50°F VERY WATER THRIFTY! Maximum
  • Elevation: 7,000 ft.
  • Deciduous Tree Type: Shade Tree
  • Tree Habit: Round, Upright, Spreading, Arching Branches
  • Mature Size: (generic) TREE (50-80′ Tall) • Broad Canopy
  • Fall Color: Subtle
  • Features: Grown For Attractive Foliage
  • Flowering Season: Spring
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Water Needs: Moderate
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Light Needs: Partial Sun, Full Sun
  • Mature Height: 50-60 Feet
  • Mature Width: 40-50 Feet
  • Name:  Hackberry

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