Celtis occidentalis - common (or Mississippi) hackberry

The hackberries are close relatives of the elms (Ulmus). The common hackberry is one of two North American species. It grows over a wide range in the temperate zones and survives the dry climate and severe winters of the prairies. It has never become widespread in Europe, though it was first introduced in the 1600s.

The foliage is a beautiful fresh green, the branches ascending but curving downwards at their tips, forming a beautiful crown. The spring flowers are insignificant, developing into small drupes which change through red to bluish-red. They are edible, with a taste which has been compared to dates, but they are not collected much because the amount of flesh around the large seed is negligible. They are, however, a delicacy for many birds and forest animals.

Finland has little experience of the hackberry, but young trees have been grown by enthusiasts in southern Finland with some success. At Mustila, the species has been grown from seed collected in 1993 on the south shore of Lake Manitoba, where an isolated northern relict group has survived from a previous warmer climatic period.


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