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Celtis, commonly known as hackberries, is a genus of about 60-70 species of deciduous trees widespread in warm temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, in southern Europe, southern and eastern Asia, and southern and central North America, south to central Africa, and northern and central South America. The genus is present in the fossil record at least since the Miocene of Europe.[1]

Previously included either in the elm family (Ulmaceae) or a separate family, Celtidaceae, the APG III system places Celtis in an expanded hemp family (Cannabaceae).[2][3]

The generic name originated in Latin and was applied by Pliny the Elder (23-79) to the unrelated Ziziphus lotus.[4]


Celtis species are generally medium-sized trees, reaching 10–25 m (33–82 ft) tall, rarely up to 40 m (130 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, 3–15 cm (1.2–5.9 in) long, ovate-acuminate, and evenly serrated margins.

Small monoecious flowers appear in early spring while the leaves are still developing. Male flowers are longer and fuzzy. Female flowers are greenish and more rounded.

The fruit is a small drupe 6–10 mm (0.24–0.39 in) in diameter, edible in many species, with a dryish but sweet, sugary consistency, reminiscent of a date.

Selected species

  • Celtis africanaBurm.f. – White Stinkwood
  • Celtis australisL. – European Hackberry, European Nettle Tree or Lote tree
  • Celtis balansaePlanch.(NEW CALEDONIA (AUSTRALIA))
  • Celtis biondii
  • Celtis brasiliensisPlanch.
  • Celtis bungeanaL. – Bunge’s Hackberry
  • Celtis caucasicaL. – Caucasian Hackberry
  • Celtis cinnamonea
  • Celtis durandiiEngl.
    [ syn.C. gomphophyllaBak. ]
  • Celtis ehrenbergiana(Klotzsch) Liebm. – Spiny Hackberry, granjeno (Spanish) (SOUTHERN US, MEXICO, GREATER ANTILLES, NORTHERN SOUTH AMERICA)
  • Celtis glabrata
  • Celtis hypoleucaPlanch.(NEW CALEDONIA (AUSTRALIA))
  • Celtis iguanaea(Jacq.) Sarg. – Iguana Hackberry (FLORIDA (USA), MEXICO, CARIBBEAN, C and SOUTH AMERICA)
  • Celtis integrifoliaL. – African Hackberry
  • Celtis jessoensisKoidz. – Japanese Hackberry (JAPAN, KOREA)
  • Celtis koraiensisL. – Korean Hackberry
  • Celtis labilisL. – Hubei Hackberry
  • Celtis laevigataWilld. – Southern Hackberry or Sugar Hackberry, (SOUTHERN US / TEXAS) Sugarberry (E USA, NE MEXICO)
  • Celtis lindheimeriEngelm. ex K.Koch – Lindheimer’s Hackberry (TEXAS (USA), COAHUILA (MEXICO))
  • Celtis loxensis
  • Celtis luzonicaWarb.(PHILIPPINES)
  • Celtis mildbraediiEngl.
  • Celtis occidentalisL. – Common Hackberry, Northern Hackberry, False Elm (E NORTH AMERICA)
  • Celtis pallida – Desert Hackberry, Shiny Hackberry (SOUTHWESTERN US / TEXAS, N MEXICO)
  • Celtis paniculata(Endl.) Planch.(E MALESIA, E AUSTRALIA, MICRONESIA, W POLYNESIA)
  • Celtis reticulataTorr. – Netleaf Hackberry (W North America)
  • Celtis schippii
  • Celtis sinensisPers. – Chinese hackberry, Chinese nettle-tree or Japanese hackberry (CHINA, JAPAN)
    [ syn. C. japonicaPlanch.; C. sinensis var. japonica(Planch.) Nakai; C. tetrandra ssp. sinensis(Roxb.) Y.C.Tang ]
  • Celtis talaGillet ex Planch. – Tala (SOUTH AMERICA)
  • Celtis tenuifoliaNutt. – Dwarf Hackberry (E NORTH AMERICA)
  • Celtis tetrandaRoxb.
  • Celtis timorensisSpan.
  • Celtis tournefortiiL. – Oriental Hackberry
  • Celtis triflora
  • Celtis trinervia

Formerly placed here

  • Trema cannabina Lour. (as C. amboinensis Willd.)
  • Trema lamarckiana (Schult.) Blume (as C. lamarckiana Schult.)
  • Trema orientalis (L.) Blume (as C. guineensis Schumach. or C. orientalis L.)
  • Trema tomentosa (Roxb.) H.Hara (as C. aspera Brongn. or C. tomentosa Roxb.)[7]

Uses and ecology

Several species are grown as ornamental trees, valued for their drought tolerance. They are a regular feature of arboreta and botanical gardens, particularly in North America. Chinese Hackberry (C. sinensis) is suited for bonsai culture, while a magnificent specimen in Daegu-myeon is one of the natural monuments of South Korea. Some, including Common Hackberry (C. occidentalis) and C. brasiliensis, are honey plants and pollen source for honeybees of lesser importance. Hackberry wood is sometimes used in cabinetry and woodworking.

The berries are often eaten locally. The Korean tea gamro cha (감로차, 甘露茶) contains C. sinensis leaves.


Celtis species are used as foodplants by the caterpillars of certain Lepidoptera. These include mainly brush-footed butterflies, most importantly the distinct genus Libythea (beak butterflies) and some Apaturinae (emperor butterflies):

  • Acytolepis puspa (Common Hedge Blue) – recorded on Chinese Hackberry (C. sinensis)
  • Automeris io (Io Moth) – recorded on Southern Hackberry (C. laevigata)
  • Asterocampa celtis (Hackberry Butterfly, Hackberry Emperor)
  • A putative new taxon of the Two-barred Flasher (Astraptes fulgerator) cryptic species complex, provisionally called “CELT”, has hitherto only been found on Celtis iguanaea.[8]
  • Libythea celtis (European Beak)
  • Libythea labdaca (African Beak)
  • Libythea lepita (Common Beak)
  • Libythea myrrha (Club Beak) – recorded on C. tetranda[verification needed]
  • Nymphalis xanthomelas (Scarce Tortoiseshell) – recorded on European Hackberry (C. australis)
  • Sasakia charonda (Great Purple Emperor) – recorded on Japanese Hackberry (C. jessoensis) and Pseudo-hackberry (C. japonica)


The plant pathogenic basidiomycete fungus Perenniporia celtis was first described from a Celtis hostplant. Some species of Celtis are threatened by habitat destruction.


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Written on October 15th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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