The hackberry tree (Celtis occidentalis) is one of Virginia's common trees along streams and bottomlands. It is easy to recognize with its unique warty, rough bark, often with knots and protuberances on the trunk. It produces pea-sized, dark berries in the fall which are high in calories from protein, fat and carbohydrates - an important food source for migratory birds. The berries tend to stay on the tree throughout the winter, also providing food for overwintering bird species and small mammals.
Native Americans eat the berries by combining them with corn and fat and roasting them over an open fire to create a nutritious mash. The berries can be eaten raw but take more effort to collect than other autumn berries like elderberry (process before eating).
The hackberry tree is the host for a lovely medium-sized butterfly - the hackberry emperor. This friendly little Lepidoptera will often land on your clothing if you move slowly through the forest. They can be coaxed to step onto your hand, particularly on humid hot days when they will gather the salt from perspiration with their tiny proboscis.
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ORMN Class IX