• December 20, 2014

Hackberry: Trash tree or treasure?

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Posted: Saturday, August 9, 2014 4:30 am

I often hear people refer to the hackberry tree as a trash tree. This term can mean different things to different folks, I suppose, but the hackberry is always included in this category.

When I use the term “trash tree,” I’m referring to the debris left on the ground under and around it.

There are a few species of trees on my list that belong in this category.

From what I read, the hackberry does qualify here since it has fairly weak limbs and brittle wood that will often break and scatter after high winds and storms. This can be pretty annoying if you have a hackberry in or near your yard.

It takes time to pick up the tree trash before mowing or to clear flower beds.

Another reason it’s “trash”: Hackberry spreads easily, usually along fence lines and in and around flower beds.

This happens because of its fruit — tiny green berries that ripen in the fall to a dark red.

Birds love to feed on these, and the hard seed is then deposited through their droppings, resulting in unwanted, misplaced hackberry saplings.

Other issues that annoy people:

Hackberries live only 20 years or so, and having them removed can be difficult since they can grow up to 80 feet high.

Their bark is lumpy and scaly, which some find unattractive.

To finish on a positive note, hackberries grow quickly, are a food source for birds and small mammals, help prevent erosion, can adapt to varying soil types, and the berries can be crushed and made into a paste, “hackberry milk,” or jam. Hackberries can even be used for firewood.

According to the website Foraging Texas, hackberries are “found on every continent except Antarctica, every culture that arose around hackberry trees utilized them as one of their main sources of calories. ... It is the oldest-known foraged food, going back over 500,000 years.”

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1 comment:

  • Roody2 posted at 9:01 am on Sat, Aug 9, 2014.

    Roody2 Posts: 340

    We have a hackberry tree but it doesn't get a chance to spread. My dogs love to eat the sprouts in the spring.

    My lab will even stand on the side of the tree and eat sprouts from the trunk then insist I get her more leaves from higher up where she can't reach! [wink]