Actually, there are four hackberry species in North America, all looking a lot the same. The common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) has the greatest range, but a southern hackberry, called sugarberry, produces the most commercial lumber. But the characteristics of each hackberry species remain the same. In fact, they are mixed and sold together. Hackberry grows best in the thick forests of the bottomlands. In fact, along the Mississippi River, specimens nearly 4' in diameter and 120' tall have been recorded. In other areas, hackberry may only attain half that size. Recognizing hackberry isn't difficult. Just look at the bark. Ranging in color from light brown to silvery gray, it usually features ridges and rough, irregular warts. And in summer, hackberry carries 2-4" long, roundish, tooth-edged leaves that end in a sharp point. Small purple, cherrylike fruits (edible by birds) that ripen in the fall. At 37 pounds per cubic foot air-dried, hackberry wood weighs about the same as black walnut and is nearly as hard but not as strong. Yet surprisingly, it outranks walnut in shock resistance. The color of hackberry ranges from creamy white (sometimes with a grayish cast) to a light yellowish tan, with no sharp contrast between heartwood and sapwood. Its grain resembles ash.
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