Celtis laevigata

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: sugarberry 
Type: Tree
Family: Cannabaceae
Native Range: Southern United States
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 60.00 to 80.00 feet
Spread: 60.00 to 80.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Street Tree, Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Edible
Tolerate: Clay Soil, Wet Soil, Air Pollution


Easily grown in medium to wet, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates part shade. Also tolerates wind, many urban pollutants and a wide range of soil conditions, including poor soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Celtis laevigata, commonly called sugarberry, sugar hackberry or southern hackberry, is basically a southern version of common or northern hackberry (see C. occidentalis). Sugarberry differs from common hackberry inter alia by (1) fruits are juicier and sweeter, (2) bark is less corky, (3) leaves are narrower with mostly smooth margins, (4) better resistance to witches’ broom and (5) less winter hardiness. Sugarberry is a medium to large sized deciduous tree that typically grows 60-80’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with upright-arching branching and a rounded spreading crown. Trunk diameter ranges from 1-3’ (less frequently to 4’). This tree is native to and widely distributed throughout the southeast and south central U.S. In Missouri, it typically occurs in moist to wet soils along streams and floodplains mostly south of the Missouri River except for the Ozark region. (Steyermark). Mature gray bark develops a warty texture. Insignificant, mostly monoecious, greenish flowers appear in spring (April –May), with male flowers in clusters and female flowers solitary. Female flowers give way to an often abundant fruit crop of round fleshy berry-like drupes maturing to deep purple. Each drupe has one round brown seed within. Fruits are attractive to a variety of wildlife. Birds consume the fruits and disperse the seeds. Fleshy parts of the fruit are edible and sweet. Ovate to oblong-lanceolate, rough-textured, untoothed, glossy to dull green leaves (2-4” long) have mostly uneven leaf bases. Undistinguished yellow fall color.

Genus name comes from the Greek name for another tree.

Specific epithet means smooth.


Hackberry nipple gall is so common in the St. Louis area that it is often used as an aid in identifying hackberries. Although the galls do not hurt these trees, they often significantly disfigure the leaves. Sugarberry has good resistance to witches’ broom (dwarfed, dense, contorted twig clusters at the branch ends). Powdery mildew and leaf spot may occur. Watch for lacebugs and scale.


This is a tough shade tree that grows in a wide range of soils. This tree may be used as a lawn tree or street tree. Seeds can pose clean up problems if trees are sited near sidewalks or patios, however.