Hackberry , (celtis occidentalis), the popular name of a tree belonging to the nettle family (urticaceoa), and the elm suborder (ulmaceoe). In different parts of the country it is also known as sugarberry, nettle tree, sweetgum, false elm, beaverwood, and hoop ash. The generic name celtis is the Greek for the lotus, the berries of C. australis, of southern Europe, being supposed to have been the food of the loto-phagi. The hackberry is found as a small straggling bush, and as a medium-sized or a large tree. It has a very close resemblance in general appearance to the elm, except that its branches are more horizontal, and instead of a winged fruit it bears singly or in pairs a globular drupe, about the size of a wild cherry, dark purple when ripe, and sweet and edible. The wood, though tine-grained and compact, is not heavy, and when exposed to the weather is not durable; it splits readily and is sometimes used for rails and even for baskets; it is said to make excellent charcoal. The tree extends from New England to the Pacific, and southward to Texas; and being found in widely different situations, it presents great variation in the size, form, and thickness of the leaves.
At least a dozen forms have from time to time been described by botanists as species; but as every intermediate state can be found between these nominal species, the best authorities unite them all under C. occidentalis. This tree in the northern states is rarely found growing in great numbers in any one locality, and is perhaps the least known of any of our forest trees; at the south it is more abundant, and attains a large size on the coast as well as on the river banks, where specimens 60 to 80 ft. high, with a trunk 3 to 5 ft. in diameter, are not rare. Tree planters seem to overlook the merits of the hackberry as an ornamental tree, and it is better appreciated in Europe than with us; as a lawn tree it presents an elegant form, and is remarkably free from the attacks of insects; it holds its leaves until late in autumn, when they turn yellow and fall all at once. A dwarf hackberry is found in western Texas, which seems to be a distinct species; it is a crooked shrub of a few feet in height, and was called by Torrey C. pallida.
The wood of the European C. australis is valued for making furniture, and especially for carving; the very strong and flexible shoots serve for making hay forks, whip handles, and the like.
Hackberry (Celtis occidontalis).