The Netted Hackberry (a member of the elm family) shows promise as an excellent smaller urban tree (photos below). The tree was first noted by the Lewis and Clark expedition in October of 1805, although Native Americans had been using it as a food source for many generations. Latin names for netted or prairie hackberry include Celtis reticulata and Celtis douglasii .
It is considered by some to be a dwarf form or western ecotype of the sugar hackberry (Celtis laevigata). This plant does not have any particularly outstanding ornamental characteristics. It's most desireable features are its size and use as a shade tree. Fruit may be borne in quantity but is ¼-inch diameter, red brown in color, is favored by birds and wildlife, and has not been problematic. Like the American hackberry, the plant has excellent urban tolerance. It is more resistant to the hackberry nipple gall psyllid and witches broom than the American hackberry.
This plant has done well in islands and large planters on The Ohio State University campus for close to thirty years. The plant is a native of the southern Rocky Mountains, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Nebraska but is found as far north as Canada. These plants tolerate alkaline soil quite well. Wound response seems to be excellent. The tree appears to be stem hardy to at least -20°F.
This is a very attractive small tree with a rounded outline (see photos below). Size is this plants principle attribute; the tree reaches a maximum height of about 35 feet. The Ohio State University tested these trees as part of a program funded by American Electric Power. These plants could be used under power lines for a protracted period without pruning. This plant could also be used in smaller tree lawns of about three feet. Availability is currently the tree's biggest problem. Many growers and urban foresters have simply not considered the tree to date.
Seed from the best netted hackberries growing on the OSU campus may be obtained by contacting the Urban Forestry Dept. in late Summer or early Autumn. For the best germination, the seeds must be stripped of the fruit, rinsed thoroughly and stratified in moist cool soil (~38 °F) for 120 days. This tree has been grown successfully in the Ohio Production System (OPS). The OPS is a high efficiency containerized stock system that is currently being used by the City of Columbus to produce trees for urban planting. For more information see: Struve, D.K. and T. Rhodus. 1990. Turning copper into gold. American Nurseryman. 172(4):114-125.
Netted Hackberry is available from Sunshine Nursery (contact: Steve or Sherry Bierbich) Clinton, Oklahoma. Phone: 580-323-6259 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see what the tree looks like in the more extreme range of its natural habitat CLICK HERE. Pictures of the trees planted in the landscape below: