Sweet Sugarberry

Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) is a large deciduous tree (50 – 70′ tall) that grows in the mesic hammock at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA).  You will encounter a large specimen at north ORCA at the beginning of the trail as it turns east.

The fruits of sugarberry are sweet and enjoyed by birds and mammals (Including humans).  Fruiting occurs in the late summer or early fall.  Its one-seeded fruits (drupes) ripen from an attractive orange-red to deep purple.

Its alternate leaves turn yellow in the fall prior to dropping off, are lanceolate, and can be from 1 – 6″ long.  Note the off-center midrib.

New leaves arrive in the early spring and are consumed by squirrels when they are fresh and nubile …

Mature leaves are light green on top and paler on the underside.  The leaf margins (edges) can be toothed or simple, so do not use this character(istic) for ID …

Also known as hackberry, this tree was planted in the landscape on the south side of the ORCA parking lot in 2001 …

It has grown swiftly and is pictured below in 2008 as it begins to leaf-out …

Sugarberry trunks become thick and “warty” with age, and the same tree is shown below in 2017 …

Lovely lichens decorate its buttressed trunk …

The protuberances provide anchorage for ball mass (Tillandsia recurvata) …

You can tell from the sugarberries in the mesic hammock and parking lot that this tree will grow in partial shade or full sun.  Before including it in your landscape, know that it does have a propensity to form suckers and that it is a larval host plant for quite a few finds of butterflies:   Hackberry emperor (Asterocampa celtis), mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), American snout (Libytheana carineta), tawny emperor (Asterocampa clyton),  and question mark (Polygonia interrogationis) butterflies.

Sugarberry is a member of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes hemp and marijuana (Cannabis sp.).

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