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Info Sheet PDF
Desert Hackberry

Celtis pallida

Mature Height*: 

4-15 ft

Mature Width*: 

5-12 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone Range:

7 to 9

Hardy to: 


Water Requirements: 

Drought Tolerant

Shade Requirements:

Full Sun

Native to:

Sonoran Desert Uplands

Origin and Adaptability:

The Desert Hackberry, scientifically known as Celtis pallida, traces its origins to the arid Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert landscapes of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Thriving in environments with characteristics similar to its native habitat, this plant showcases adaptability to arid conditions, making it an excellent choice for landscape designs seeking robust and resilient plant options. Its adaptability extends to well-drained soils, providing landscape architects with flexibility in diverse design applications.

Architectural Form and Foliage:

The Desert Hackberry, distinguished by its small, textured, and light-green leaves, arranges itself in elegantly simple pinnate patterns with parallel venation. Adorning the zig-zagged branches are individual or paired thorns, capable of reaching an inch in length, making this shrub an excellent choice for both screening and habitat purposes. Whether employed as a stand-alone focal point, integrated as an accent in mixed plantings, or utilized in the creation of a lush backdrop, its foliage adds sophistication to any outdoor design, contributing to a harmonious visual appeal.

Floral Display and Growth Speed:

As spring unfolds, the Desert Hackberry graces the landscape with its diminutive, greenish-yellow flowers. Following successful pollination, this resilient species produces petite, round drupes, showcasing brilliant hues of orange or occasional red. The drupes, reminiscent of peaches or plums, encase a stone and are known for their subtly tart taste. While not as flamboyant as some flowering plants, its unassuming beauty and ecological contributions make it an asset to sustainable landscape designs. With a moderate growth rate, this species ensures a balance between prompt establishment and long-term manageability, providing designers with a reliable and steady growth pattern.

Light and Water Requirements:

Thriving under abundant sunlight, the Desert Hackberry achieves its full potential when exposed to at least six hours of sunlight daily. While demonstrating some tolerance for shaded conditions, providing ample sunlight enhances its overall vigor. As a plant adapted to arid climates, it exhibits drought tolerance. However, consistent watering during the establishment phase ensures optimal growth and resilience, contributing to its ability to withstand challenging conditions.

Wildlife Support and Biodiversity:

Indigenous to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, the Desert Hackberry contributes to local biodiversity by providing habitat and sustenance for various wildlife. The drupes become a source of delight for a variety of desert dwellers, including cactus wrens, green jays, coyotes, jackrabbits, and numerous other animals who savor the Desert Hackberry's fruit. Its resistance to browsing by rabbits and deer further establishes its role in supporting local fauna.

Challenges and Considerations:

While generally low-maintenance, landscape architects should consider the mature size and growth habit of the Desert Hackberry during the planning stages. Harnessing its well-structured growth can contribute to creating visually dynamic landscapes. Regular pruning, when needed, ensures a balanced and well-maintained appearance.

Integration into Landscape Designs:

With its distinctive architectural form, unassuming flowers, and moderate growth rate, the Desert Hackberry seamlessly integrates into diverse landscape designs. Designers can use it to add an understated elegance to xeriscape gardens, as a subtle focal point in rock gardens, or as a complementary element in mixed plantings to enhance overall aesthetic appeal.

Designing with the Desert Hackberry:

Landscape architects can leverage the unique characteristics of Celtis pallida, commonly known as the Desert Hackberry, to create visually dynamic and culturally meaningful landscapes. Whether featured as a standalone feature or woven into a diverse plant palette, this species contributes to the creation of vibrant, resilient, and ecologically conscious outdoor environments.

For landscape architects and designers, the Desert Hackberry offers an opportunity to incorporate an understated yet sophisticated presence, wildlife support, and an adaptable essence into their designs, ultimately contributing to the creation of dynamic and environmentally rich outdoor spaces.

*Height and width estimated for growth in the Tucson, AZ area. True sizes may vary.

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