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Sugarberry, Southern Hackberry
Celtis laevigata

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

General Landscape Uses: Primarily recommended for natural landscapes and habitat restorations. Also as an accent tree.

Ecological Restoration Notes: An occasional element in hammocks, often associated with past aboriginal activity.

Availability: Grown by one or two native plant nurseries in South Florida.
Available at Indian Trails Native Nursery in Lake Worth (561-641-9488).

Description: Medium to large tree with a broadly rounded crown. Trunk straight, 1-2 feet in diameter. Bark smooth with few or many warts. Leaves thin, 2-5 inches long. A temperate deciduous species.

Dimensions: Typically 25-50 feet in height in South Florida; to 100 feet in Florida. Taller than broad.

Growth Rate: Moderate to fast.

Range: Eastern and central United States south to Miami-Dade County and the Monroe County mainland; northeastern Mexico. Apparently absent from the southernmost barrier islands in Miami-Dade, Broward Collier and Lee counties. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.

Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

Habitats: Swamps and humid forests.

Soils: Moist, moderately well-drained to well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with humusy top layer.

Nutritional Requirements: Moderate to high; grows best with some organic content and may languish in nutrient poor soils.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Low; salt wind may burn the leaves.

Drought Tolerance: Moderate; generally requires moist soils, but tolerant of short periods of drought once established.

Light Requirements: Light shade to full sun.

Flower Color: Green.

Flower Characteristics: Inconspicuous.

Flowering Season: Spring.

Fruit: Yellow to orange to red to dark purple fleshy drupe; late summer to fall. Edible, sweet.

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Birds and other animals readily eat the sweet fruits. Sole larval host plant for American snout (Libytheana carineta) in South Florida; also larval host for tawny emperor (Asterocampa clyton), question mark (Polygonia interrogationis) and hackberry emperor (Aterocampa celtis) butterflies.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed, which should be sown as soon as the fruit is ripe.

Comments: Common in some hammocks in South Florida, but missing in many others.

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Keith A. Bradley

Other data on Celtis laevigata available from:

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