Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Hackberry Fruits Are Ripening July 17, 2009

Filed under: Fossils,Geology,Plants,Seasons,Summer,Trees — saltthesandbox @ 3:06 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hackberries are one of my favorite street-side trees. Their warty bark is entertaining year ’round, and I always enjoy the assortment of galls and growths found on their leaves and twigs. (I blogged about Hackberry Nipple Galls here.) On yesterday’s walk through south Oak Park, I noticed that Hackberry fruits are ripening on a few neighborhood trees:

Ripening Hackberry fruits (dark green) with pale Nipple Galls.

Ripening Hackberry fruits (dark green to purple) with pale, fuzzy Hackberry Nipple Galls.

Only a few fruits on this tree were ripe, but there were many raisiny purple Hackberry fruits on the sidewalk (perhaps knocked there by recent storms).

If you bite gently on a ripe Hackberry fruit, you’ll often taste a bit of sweetness (which varies tree to tree). That’s why some folks call these “Sugarberry” trees. Just don’t bite too hard! Inside the thin fruity coating is a seed that’s hard as rock. The seed actually contains a bit of calcium carbonate, which makes up limestone rock. That’s one reason Hackberry seeds are readily preserved in soils. I’ve even found 40-million-year-old Hackberry seeds buried in ancient soils in the Badlands of South Dakota and Nebraska (see examples here).

Like me, many birds eat Hackberry seeds in south Oak Park, including Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and Starlings. Last fall I watched a flock of Crows feeding in a Hackberry tree along Oak Park Avenue near Lincoln School.

Galls, fruits, fossils, and birds — no wonder I love Hackberries!


Here are links more information about Hackberries:


2 Responses to “Hackberry Fruits Are Ripening”

  1. David Jay Says:

    I have a question about Hackberry trees, if I might.

    I have what appears to be a Hackberry tree in the yard of my new home. The leaf (and galls) matches photos on the web, and the twigs have the same offset at the leaf bases.

    But there is no fruit. I purchased this land 3 years ago and I have never seen any fruit in the tree. It is about 4 inches in diameter and about 15 feet tall.

    Does anyone know what size the tree will be at maturity – that is – when it produces fruit? Is mine just too young?

    Thanks in advance for any and all comments.

    Grand Rapids, MI

  2. Richard Lisk Says:

    My yard in Texas has mostly Hackberry trees. This month, I noticed one smaller tree is fruiting. The tree is about 30 feet tall and has a trunk diameter of about 6 inches. It’s the only tree that’s borne fruit in the 4 years I’ve lived here. I had to clear the land when we built this house, and I kept most of the hackberries. They were packed pretty close together, which may explain their leggy growth and narrow crowns. They’ve been susceptible to wind damage during Spring storms, with trunks snapping about 12-15 feet off the ground. I’m slowly replacing them with Live Oak and English Walnut.

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