Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Plantae>Magnoliophyta>Magnoliopsida>Rosales>Cannabaceae>Celtis laevigata Willdenow

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Sugarberry is a common large overstory tree of bottomland forests, but also occurs in drier areas over calcareous rock (with relatively high pH soil).

The similar Common Hackberry (C. occidentalis) and Dwarf Hackberry (C. tenuifolia) also occur in North Carolina, but are less common. These have broader, coarsely toothed leaves that are usually sandpapery above. The leaf bases of the other species are often cordate, while those of C. laevigata are usually cuneate or rounded. Intermediate trees, which may be hybrids, are not rare, which may explain why these species were formerly lumped as varieties of C. occidentalis.

Granville Co., NC 4/26/09.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

The leaves are normally easily identified by their elongate, almost triangular shape with uneven bases with three prominent veins and usually few teeth.

Chapel Hill, NC 5/2/09.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

The branching pattern is distinctive.

Chapel Hill, NC 5/2/09.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

This individual could be a hybrid. Its leaves were smooth above, but appear intermediate between C. laevigata and C. occidentalis.

Caswell Co., NC 5/21/10.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

More typical C. laevigata leaves, covered with galls as they often are.

Caswell Co., NC 5/21/10.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Same leaves from above.

Caswell Co., NC 5/21/10.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Granville Co., NC 5/1/2011.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Granville Co., NC 5/1/2011.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) fruits

Ripening fruits. The fruits are drupes, with a large seed encased in a hardened endocarp and surrounded by fleshy mesocarp.

Chapel Hill, NC 5/1/10.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) fruits

Chapel Hill, NC 5/1/10.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Durham Co., NC 6/8/03.

Three species of butterflies feed on the leaves as larvae: Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor, and American Snout.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) fruits

Ripe drupes are deep reddish-purplish.

Durham Co., NC 12/6/08.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)fruits

The fruits are edible and sweetish — the taste is similar to that of dates — but the stone is large and covered by only a thin layer of flesh. The fruits are greatly enjoyed by birds.

Durham Co., NC 12/6/08.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) bark

The bark is usually extremely warty.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) bark

Bark detail.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) bark

Bark of a medium-sized tree. An extreme example of wartiness!

Orange Co., NC 3/9/08.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) bark

Durham Co., NC 10/16/2008.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) bark

Bark of a large tree.

Chapel Hill, NC 5/1/10.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Large tree in spring.

Sugarberry is one of the earlier tree species to leaf out.

Durham Co., NC 4/13/2003.

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)

Large tree in winter (same tree as in photo above).

Durham Co., NC 12/4/2005.

Texas Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata var. texana)

The Celtis laevigata in central Texas is quite different from the variety laevigata that we have in North Carolina.

These are either Texas Sugarberry, Celtis laevigata var. texana Sargent, or Netleaf Sugarberry, Celtis laevigata var. reticulata (Torrey) L.D. Benson.

Menard, TX 4/24/2011.

Texas Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata var. texana)

Menard, TX 4/24/2011.

Texas Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata var. texana)

Menard, TX 4/24/2011.

Texas Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata var. texana)

Menard, TX 4/24/2011.

More information:
NC State fact sheet
Trees of Alabama and the Southeast
Virginia Tech Dendrology

Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of North Carolina

cwcook@duke.edu

All photographs and text ©2012 by Will Cook unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.