Hackberry is a tree that has a form that is very similar to the elm tree. This is in fact, because it is related to the elm tree. Some of the common names this tree is known by are Common Hackberry, Nettletree, Beaverwood and Sugarberry.
This Hackberry tree forms a rounded case that grows to reach heights of forty to eighty feet. It is a rapid grower that transplants quite easily. When the bark is mature it becomes a light gray colour, and is rough and corky. The tree has small berry like fruits that turn from reddish orange to purple and is loved by many species of birds. The fruit can temporarily stain.
It is usually planted on roadsides as a street tree in many Midwestern cities as it has quite a tolerance to a wide variety of soil and moisture conditions. Many species of this tree are grown as ornamental trees that are invaluable because of how well they tolerate drought. You will see them as being quite a common feature of botanical gardens and arboretums, especially in North America. These trees are also suited for Bonsai culture. The wood of this tree is used for making inexpensive furniture that requires a light-colored wood.
On good bottomland soils these Hackberry trees grow naturally and quite fast and can live to be twenty years of age. It is a forgiving urban tree and is tolerant of many soil and moisture conditions, regardless of whether it is fertile and moist or hot, dry and rocky. It is tolerant to wind, drought, pollution and salt once it gets established and is therefore quite a tough tree that can survive urban conditions. It prefers full sun but can withstand the shade as well.
The Hackberry requires a lot of care even though it is a hardy tree. Skilled pruning is needed several times during the first fifteen years of its life so as to prevent any weak branch crotches or weak multiple trunks forming.
Even slight injuries to the branches or trunk can cause extensive decay to start from within the tree. If you want to plant this tree then do so in a location where it will not face any mechanical injury, such as a car backing up or children running around playing. Low-use areas of your garden are best for this tree, such as the edge of woods or in an open lawn, but not along streets. The tree is also quite prone to damage during an ice or hail storm.
Many forms of fungi can cause leaf spots on this tree. This disease worsens during wet weather but you seldom need chemical control for it. Witches broom is another disease that is caused by powdery mildew and a mite. Signs of this disease are clusters of twigs that are scattered near the tree crown. You need to prune out these clusters when you can.
Mistletoe is a colonizer of this tree, and can kill it over a period of time. It shows up at the crown, scattering above it as evergreen masses of several feet. These too should be pruned to keep the Hackberry tree healthy.
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