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Dwarf Hackberry Celtis tenuifolia

Previously known as:

  • Celtis pumila
Phonetic Spelling
SEL-tis ten-yoo-ih-FOH-lee-uh
Description

Dwarf Hackberry is a rapidly growing, flowering, deciduous tree with a narrow crown that may grow 20 to 30 feet tall. It is native, but fairly rare, to the southeastern United States and sometimes found on dry rocky or gravelly soils in foothills and bluffs, on slopes and along streams in open woods. The broad leaves are alternate with some leaves completely untoothed, while other leaves on the same plant may be toothed halfway to the asymmetrical base. The bark is gray and smooth with small warts. In spring, small, stalked, light green flowers mature. The small tree produces an orange-red to dark purple drupe that matures in the fall. The fruit is edible and sweet to the taste.

These trees thrive in hot summers and sunlight; lack of sun can cause the wood to not fully ripen making them subject to die-back in winter. Under optimum conditions, Dwarf Hackberry are very long-lived. The tree suckers, but it primarily naturalizes by seed dispersal. It is not considered invasive in the United States. The genus name, celtis, is the Greek word for the hackberry tree. The species name, tenuifolia, is Latin for thin leaf, although the leaves actually vary in thickness.

While it tolerates partial shade and poor soil, it does not tolerate full shade and prefers to be grown in full sun in moist, well-drained soil that is high in organic material.  It will self-seed easily, or you can propagate it through stem cuttings.  This tough plant tolerates drought, wind, urban conditions, dry, wet, and poor soils.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:

No known diseases or insect pests.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#drought tolerant#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#native shrub#showy fruits#sweet fruit#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#nighttime garden#mourning cloak butterflies#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#Audubon#american snout butterfly#tawny emperor butterfly#question mark butterfly#hackberry emperor butterfly#shade intolerant#tree
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#drought tolerant#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#native shrub#showy fruits#sweet fruit#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#nighttime garden#mourning cloak butterflies#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#Audubon#american snout butterfly#tawny emperor butterfly#question mark butterfly#hackberry emperor butterfly#shade intolerant#tree
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Celtis
    Species:
    tenuifolia
    Family:
    Cannabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    An uncommon native small tree or large shrub is found in locations that include dry uplands, open woodlands and sandy habitats near the shore.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    United States, eastern Canada
    Distribution:
    Mississippi north to Ontario, southeast to Connecticut, south to Florida.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    This is a larval host plant for several butterflies including American Snout (Libytheana carinenta), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis), and Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton) and Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis). Questionmark butterflies have an interesting life cycles: overwintered adult Question Mark butterflies lay eggs from spring until the end of May. These will appear as summer adults from May-September, laying eggs that then develop into the winter adult form. The winter adults appear in late August and shelter for the winter starting the cycle all over again. Adult Question Mark butterflies feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, and carrion only visiting flowers for feeding when absolutely necessary. Also a host plant for the American Snout, Mourning Cloak and Tawny Emperer.  Three species of butterflies feed on the leaves as larvae: Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor, and American Snout.  Many birds and small mammals eat the fruits.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 36 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The sweet fruit is a berry-like drupe, 5 to 8 millimeters in diameter, consisting of a single stone encased within a thin, sweet mesocarp. From green, it becomes a light orange, then a dark red, then purplish-brown. This edible drupe with smooth outer skin and a pulpy yellow inside is relished by small mammals and birds. Drupes display from August to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Irregular
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers of the Dwarf Hackberry are insignificant, monecious, occurring either singularly or in small clusters. This species is wind-pollinated and appears to be self-compatible. Blooms from April to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Rough
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves of the Dwarf Hackberry are alternate, simple, elliptical, and ovate. They have broad, heavily toothed or smooth margins, and sand papery texture. They are similar to common hackberry (C. occidentalis) but has slightly narrower leaves that are more regularly toothed at the base. Dwarf Hackberry are cordate (heart-shaped) at the base, while common hackberry usually are not. The winter buds are brown and hairy, similar to those of other hackberries, but smaller, only 1 to 2 centimeters long. Terminal buds absent.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Grey, smooth bark with corky ridges or warts.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Flowering Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Fire