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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.

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).

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

type of tree


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 africana Burm.f. – White Stinkwood
   Celtis australis L. – European Hackberry, European Nettle Tree or Lote tree
   Celtis balansae Planch. (NEW CALEDONIA (AUSTRALIA))
   Celtis biondii
   Celtis brasiliensis Planch.
   Celtis bungeana L. – Bunge's Hackberry
   Celtis caucasica L. – Caucasian Hackberry
   Celtis conferta
       Celtis conferta subsp. conferta – New Caledonia
       Celtis conferta subsp. amblyphylla – Lord Howe Island
   Celtis durandii Engl.
     [ syn. C. gomphophylla Bak. ]
   Celtis ehrenbergiana (Klotzsch) Liebm. – Spiny Hackberry, granjeno (Spanish) (SOUTHERN US, MEXICO, GREATER ANTILLES, NORTHERN SOUTH AMERICA)
   Celtis hypoleuca Planch. (NEW CALEDONIA (AUSTRALIA))
   Celtis iguanaea (Jacq.) Sarg. – Iguana Hackberry (FLORIDA (USA), MEXICO, CARIBBEAN, C and SOUTH AMERICA)
   Celtis integrifolia L. – African Hackberry
   Celtis jessoensis Koidz. – Japanese Hackberry (JAPAN, KOREA)
   Celtis koraiensis L. – Korean Hackberry
   Celtis labilis L. – Hubei Hackberry
   Celtis laevigata Willd. – Southern Hackberry or Sugar Hackberry, (SOUTHERN US / TEXAS) Sugarberry (E USA, NE MEXICO)
   Celtis lindheimeri Engelm. ex K.Koch – Lindheimer's Hackberry (TEXAS (USA), COAHUILA (MEXICO))
   Celtis loxensis
   Celtis luzonica Warb. (PHILIPPINES)
   Celtis mildbraedii Engl.
   Celtis occidentalis L. – 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 philippensis Planch.
   Celtis planchoniana, eastern Europe and western Asia
   Celtis reticulata Torr. – Netleaf Hackberry (W North America)
   Celtis schippii
   Celtis sinensis Pers. – Chinese hackberry, Chinese nettle-tree or Japanese hackberry (CHINA, JAPAN)
   [ syn. C. japonica Planch.; C. sinensis var. japonica (Planch.) Nakai; C. tetrandra ssp. sinensis (Roxb.) Y.C.Tang ]
   Celtis tala Gillet ex Planch. – Tala (SOUTH AMERICA)
   Celtis tenuifolia Nutt. – Dwarf Hackberry (E NORTH AMERICA)
   Celtis tetranda Roxb.
   Celtis timorensis Span.
   Celtis tournefortii L. – 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.)

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): Common Beak (Libythea lepita) caterpillars feed on Celtis

   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.
   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.