Fruits and Nuts
Flora


A hackberry tree on the left side of the parish Church of St. Michael, Zminj (Gimino), Istria.

Hackberry Tree - Lodogno - Ladonja
(Celtis australis L.)

The genus Celtis or Hackberry trees are members of the Ulmaceae family. They are elm-like, but usually medium-sized. They are round-headed trees with only a few of the 70 widely distributed species cultivated for ornament [as per 1960s and may not be current situation]. They are much less attractive than the closely related elms. Leaves alternate, stalked, more or less oblique at the base and 3-veined. Flowers inconspicuous, unisexual or polygamous, without petals and with a 4-5-lobed calyx. Stamens 4-5. Fruit a greenish or blackish, bony, egg-shaped or roundish drupe, the pulp scanty. (Celtis is the classical Greek name for a tree with a sweet fruit, but not certainly applicable to these trees.)

The hackberry is one of the easiest culture in an ordinary garden soil, but they are hardy only as indicated below. Propogation is easiest from fall-sown seeds or from cuttings taken in the fall. The species much resemble one another and are hard to distinguish.

The species found in Istria is Celtis australis.

Celtis australis

Common names: lodogno or boboler (Istrian), bagolaro (Italian), hackberry tree, Mediterranean / European hackberry tree, European / Southern nettle tree or Lote tree (English).

European Hackberry is a deciduous tree, 40 to 70 feet tall by 40 to 50 feet wide, with smooth, light grey, somewhat warty bark and a wide, broad, rounded canopy, making it a good potential shade tree. The six-inch-long, sharply toothed leaves are dark grey/green throughout the year fading to a pale yellow before falling in autumn. Tiny, round, dark purple fruits hang in short clusters and are extremely popular with birds and other wildlife. But they are hard and people can roll and slip on them when they drop onto sidewalks and other hard surfaces.

Characteristics

  • Leaves: Simple, alternate, ovalish sharp-toothed are rough and more or less pale on top, and furry (hairy) underneath., 5 to 15 cms (4-6 in.) long and dark grey/green throughout the year fading to a pale yellow before falling in autumn.
  • Flowers: The inconspicuous flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) small and green without petals, either singly or in small clusters. Not effective ornamentally. They flower in April.
  • Fruit: Small, dark-purple or purplish-green berries (drupes), 1 cm wide hang in short clusters and are extremely popular with birds and other wildlife. The fruit ripens in October.
  • Bark: Smooth, mottle, dark grey or light green, develops picturesque corky warts and rideges as it matures.
Celtis Australis flowers and dried fruit from prior year. The smooth and mottled trunk.

Habitat

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

It is found in Eurasia and northern Africa. In the USA, little grown outside of California and similar climates, and not hardy north of zone 5.

Cultivation

Succeeds in any reasonably good soil, preferring a good fertile well-drained loamy soil. Succeeds on dry gravels and on sandy soils. The trees have deep spreading roots and are very drought resistant once established.

This species requires mild winters if it is to succeed. Trees prefer hotter summers and more sunlight than are normally experienced in Britain, they often do not fully ripen their wood when growing in Britain, and they are then very subject to die-back in winter. A hardier form, from seed collected in the Caucasus, is in cultivation in Britain.

The fruit and the seed are sometimes sold in local markets in the Balkans. This plant is said to be the lotus fruit of the ancients. It is mentioned in the story of Odysseus returning from Troy and the story relates that if a person should eat the fruit they will never leave that area.

Coppices well. A good shade tree[.

Trees can be very long-lived, perhaps to 1000 years.

Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed is best given 2-3 months cold stratification and then sown February / March in a greenhouse. Germination rates are usually good, though the stored seed might take 12 months or more to germinate. The seed can be stored for up to 5 years. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. The leaves of seedlings often have a lot of white patches without chlorophyll, this is normal and older plants produce normal green leaves. Grow the seedlings on in a cold frame for their first winter, and plant them out in the following late spring or early summer[K]. Give them some protection from the cold for their first winter outdoors.

Management

Trees benefit from some pruning in the nursery and landscape. Often, there are only a small number of large-diameter branches in the crown, and these can develop embedded bark next to the trunk if they are allowed to become very large relative to the size of the trunk. This problem can be avoided by pruning back these branches to slow their growth so more, smaller-diameter dominant branches develop in the crown. Be sure that branches arise from the trunk at a wide angle, and slow the growth of these branches by pruning. This will help the tree develop a strong branch structure since Hackberry appears to develop embedded bark on major branches more often than some other trees. But large-diameter surface roots can form (particularly in poorly-drained soil) raising sidewalks and making mowing grass difficult. Locate the tree eight feet or more from a sidewalk or street to help keep them intact.

Hackberry has a reputation for internal trunk rot, particularly following mechanical injury to the trunk. Locate the tree so it will not be injured by mowing equipment or other vehicles, and keep grass away from the base of the trunk so string trimmers will not cause injury.

European Hackberry will display quickest growth in full sun on moist soil but will tolerate poorer soil conditions very well with slower growth. It is moderately drought-tolerant.

Propagation is by seed, layering, and cuttings.

Uses

On a tree lawn over 6 ft wide; street without sidewalk; reclamation; shade; Bonsai; highway median.

It is often planted as an ornamental as it is resistant to air pollution and long-living. The fruit of this tree is are sweet and edible, and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves and fruit are astringent, lenitive and stomachic. decoction of both leaves and fruit is used in the treatment of amenorrhoea, heavy menstrual and intermenstrual bleeding and colic. The decoction can also be used to astringe the mucous membranes in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and peptic ulcers

A yellow dye is obtained from the bark. The wood is very tough, pliable, durable and is widely used by turners. The flexible thin shoots are used as walking sticks. The tree also makes an excellent fuel.

Edible Uses

Fruit; Oil; Seed.
  • Fruit - eaten raw. A mealy pleasant taste, small and insipidly sweet. Of little value [US]. The fruit is about 10 mm in diameter[ with a single large seed.
  • Seed - raw or cooked.
  • An oil is obtained from the seed.

Medicinal Uses

Disclaimer

Astringent; Lenitive; Stomachic.

The leaves and fruit are astringent, lenitive and stomachic. They are gathered in early summer and dried for later use. The fruit, particularly before it is fully ripe, is considered to be more effective medicinally.

A decoction of both leaves and fruit is used in the treatment of amenorrhoea, heavy menstrual and intermenstrual bleeding and colic[218, 240]. The decoction can also be used to astringe the mucous membranes in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and peptic ulcers[254].

Other Uses

Dye; Fuel; Oil; Wood.
  • A yellow dye is obtained from the bark.
  • A fatty oil is obtained from the seed. No more information is given.
  • Wood - very tough, pliable, durable. Widely used by turners. The flexible thin shoots are used as walking sticks. An excellent fuel.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern but twigs may occasionally die from the parasitic fungus which causes witches' broom. Affected wood should simply be removed when noticed. It is not often seen with the leaf gall which is so common on Celtis occidentalis.
  • Pests: Citricola scale, European fruit lecanium, hackberry nipple galls, occasionally aphids
  • Diseases: Resistant to oak root fungus. Hendersonia leaf spots, cankers, dieback, downy mildew, nematodes, eriophyid mite. Tolerant of Dutch elm diesase.

Allergenic Properties

  • Components: Pollen
  • Principles: Pollen allergens
  • Properties: Respiratory

The pollen of the hackberries is moderately allergenic, though it doesn't appear to figure as importantly in pollinosis as the related elms (Ulmus spp.).

Sources:

  • Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtis_australis
  • http://www.allergenica.com/Details.asp?PLANTID=523
  • Image - http://www.arbolesornamentales.com/Celtisaustralis.htm
  • Image - Rare Woods, Celtis australis, Micocoulier, France - http://www.rarewoodsandveneers.com
  • Image - http://www.apinguela.com/Plantas/C/Celtis-australis/celtis_australis.htm
  • http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ST137
  • Image - http://www.piante-e-arbusti.it/bagolaro.htm
  • http://www.canopy.org/db/main.asp?tree=20
  • http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Celtis+australis
  • Image - http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagolaro
  • http://www.ufei.org/bigtrees/images.lasso?KeyValue=77

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran

Created: Sunday, November 05, 2006. Last updated:Thursday October 11, 2012
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