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This article is about the genus of plants. For other uses, see Celtis (disambiguation).
Celtis sinensis3.jpg
Chinese hackberry (C. sinensis), leaves and fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Cannabaceae
Genus: Celtis

Some 60–70 (see about 35 below)

Celtis, commonly known as hackberries or nettle trees, is a genus of about 60–70 species of deciduous trees widespread in warm temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, in southern Europe, southern and eastern Asia, and southern and central North America, south to central Africa, and northern and central South America. The genus is present in the fossil record at least since the Miocene of Europe.[1][2]

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).[3][4] The generic name originated in Latin and was applied by Pliny the Elder (23–79) to the unrelated Ziziphus lotus.[5]


Celtis species are generally medium-sized trees, reaching 10–25 m (33–82 ft) tall, rarely up to 40 m (130 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, 3–15 cm (1.2–5.9 in) long, ovate-acuminate, and evenly serrated margins.

Small monoecious flowers appear in early spring while the leaves are still developing. Male flowers are longer and fuzzy. Female flowers are greenish and more rounded.

The fruit is a small drupe 6–10 mm (0.24–0.39 in) in diameter, edible in many species, with a dryish but sweet, sugary consistency, reminiscent of a date

Selected species[edit]

Clusters of staminate (male) flowers of C. africana, with 4 tepals and 4 stamens each
additional list source[6][7]

Formerly placed here[edit]

Uses and ecology[edit]

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, while a magnificent specimen in Daegu-myeon is one of the natural monuments of South Korea. Some, including Common hackberry (C. occidentalis) and C. brasiliensis, are honey plants and pollen source for honeybees of lesser importance. Hackberry wood is sometimes used in cabinetry and woodworking.

The berries are often eaten locally. The Korean tea gamro cha (감로차, 甘露茶) contains C. sinensis leaves.


Celtis species are used as foodplants 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


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



  1. ^ Keeler (1900): pp.249–252.
  2. ^ MacPhail et. al. (1994): pp. 231.
  3. ^ Stevens, P.F., Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Cannabaceae 
  4. ^ "Celtis L.". GRIN Taxonomy for Plants. Retrieved February 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. I A–C. CRC Press. p. 468. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2. 
  6. ^ "Celtis ehrenbergiana (Klotzsch) Liebm.". GRIN. USDA. 2002-01-10. Retrieved April 16, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Celtis sinensis Pers.". GRIN. USDA. Retrieved July 2, 2009. 
  8. ^ "GRIN Species Records of Celtis". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  9. ^ Hébert et al. (2004), Brower et al. (2006)


  • 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
  • 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.
  • Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. Originally published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Facsimile edition from a scan of the first edition published 2005 by The Kent State University Press, Ohio. ISBN 0873388380. Available online through Google Books.
  • Hébert, Paul D.N.; Penton, Erin H.; Burns, John M.; Janzen, Daniel H. & Hallwachs, Winnie (2004). Ten species in one: DNA barcoding reveals cryptic species in the semitropical skipper butterfly Astraptes fulgerator. PNAS 101(41): 14812-14817. doi:10.1073/pnas.0406166101 PDF fulltext Supporting Appendices