Leaves and immature fruit of Chinese hackberry (C. sinensis)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Cannabaceae
Genus: Celtis

Some 60–70 (see below)

  • Colletia Scop.
  • Mertensia Kunth 1817 nom. illeg. hom.
  • Momisia F. Dietr. 1819
  • Sparrea Hunz. & Dottori 1978

Celtis is a genus of about 60–70 species of deciduous trees, commonly known as hackberries or nettle trees, widespread in warm temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The genus is part of the extended Cannabis family (Cannabaceae).


Celtis species are generally medium-sized trees, reaching 10–25 metres (33–82 feet) tall, rarely up to 40 m (130 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, 3–15 centimetres (1+14–6 inches) long, ovate-acuminate, and evenly serrated margins. Diagnostically, Celtis can be very similar to trees in the Rosaceae and other rose motif families.[citation needed]

Small flowers of this monoecious plant appear in early spring while the leaves are still developing. Male flowers are longer and fuzzy. Female flowers are greenish and more rounded.[citation needed]

The fruit is a small drupe 6–10 millimetres (1438 in) in diameter, edible in many species, with a dryish but sweet, sugary consistency, reminiscent of a date.[citation needed]


Previously included either in the elm family (Ulmaceae) or a separate family, Celtidaceae, the APG III system places Celtis in an expanded hemp family (Cannabaceae).[1][2]


Members of the genus are present in the fossil record as early as the Miocene of Europe, and Paleocene of North America and eastern Asia.[3][4]


66 species are currently accepted.[5]

Clusters of staminate (male) flowers of C. africana, with four tepals and four stamens each
Leaf of C. occidentalis

Removed from genus


The generic name originated in Latin and was applied by Pliny the Elder to the unrelated Ziziphus lotus.[8]

Distribution and habitat

The trees are widespread in warm temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including Southern Europe, South and East Asia, southern and central North America,[9] south and central Africa, and northern and central South America.


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Some species, including common hackberry (C. occidentalis) and C. brasiliensis, are honey plants and a pollen source for honeybees of lesser importance.


Celtis species are used as food plants by the caterpillars of certain Lepidoptera. These include mainly brush-footed butterflies, most importantly the distinct genus Libythea (beak butterflies) and some Apaturinae (emperor butterflies):

Common beak (Libythea lepita) caterpillars feed on Celtis in Asia


The plant pathogenic basidiomycete fungus Perenniporia celtis was first described from a Celtis host plant. Some species of Celtis are threatened by habitat destruction.


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Several species are grown as ornamental trees, valued for their drought tolerance. They are a regular feature of arboreta and botanical gardens, particularly in North America. Chinese hackberry (C. sinensis) is suited for bonsai culture; a magnificent specimen in Daegu-myeon is one of the natural monuments of South Korea.

The berries are generally edible when they ripen and fall.[14] C. occidentalis fruit was used by the Omaha, eaten casually, as well as the Dakota people, who pounded them fine, seeds and all. The Pawnee used the pounded fruits in combination with fat and parched corn.[15] The berries of C. douglasii are also edible, and were consumed by the Mescalero Apaches.[16]

Hackberry wood is sometimes used in cabinetry and woodworking.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Stevens, P.F., Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Cannabaceae
  2. ^ "Celtis". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  3. ^ MacPhail, M. K., N. F. Alley, E. M. Truswell and I. R. K. Sluiter (1994). "Early Tertiary vegetation: evidence from spores and pollen." History of the Australian Vegetation: Cretaceous to Recent. Ed. Robert S. Hill. Cambridge University Press. pp. 189–261. ISBN 0521401976.Partially available on Google Books.
  4. ^ Manchester, S. R., Akhmetiev, M. A., & Kodrul, T. M. (2002). Leaves and fruits of Celtis aspera (Newberry) comb. nov. (Celtidaceae) from the Paleocene of North America and eastern Asia. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 163(5), 725-736.
  5. ^ Celtis L. Plants of the World Online, Kew Science. Accessed 11 December 2022.
  6. ^ MacVean, A.L. 2021. Celtis trinervia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T179045950A149309679. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-1.RLTS.T179045950A149309679.en. Downloaded on 28 April 2021.
  7. ^ "GRIN Species Records of Celtis". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 2009-01-20. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  8. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. Vol. I A–C. CRC Press. p. 468. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2.
  9. ^ Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0873388380. pp. 249–252.
  10. ^ Ravikanthachari, Nitin (April 2018). "Larval host plants of the butterflies of the Western Ghats, India". Research Gate.
  11. ^ Wahlberg, Niklas (October 2006). "Libythea myrrha Godart 1819". Tree of Life Web Project.
  12. ^ Brower, Andrew V.Z. (2006). Problems with DNA barcodes for species delimitation: ‘ten species’ of Astraptes fulgerator reassessed (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). Systematics and Biodiversity 4(2): 127–132. doi:10.1017/S147720000500191X PDF fulltext
  13. ^ Hebert, P. D. N.; Penton, E. H.; Burns, J. M.; Janzen, D. H.; Hallwachs, W. (2004). "Ten species in one: DNA barcoding reveals cryptic species in the neotropical skipper butterfly Astraptes fulgerator". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101 (41): 14812–14817. Bibcode:2004PNAS..10114812H. doi:10.1073/pnas.0406166101. PMC 522015. PMID 15465915. PDF fulltext Supporting Appendices
  14. ^ The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants. United States Department of the Army. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2009. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-60239-692-0. OCLC 277203364.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. ^ "Uses of plants by the Indians of the Missouri River region". Washington, Govt. print. off. 1919.
  16. ^ Peattie, Donald Culross (1953). A Natural History of Western Trees. New York: Bonanza Books. p. 472.