Celtis reticulate

Netleaf Hackberry - Celtis reticulate
Percha Creek east of Hillsboro, NM

I have always been drawn to trees with character, give me a Madrone, Torrey Pine, or Mountain Mahogany any time and leave the Lodgepole Pine at home.  Given that attitude, imagine my pleasure when I discovered the Netleaf Hackberry, Celtis reticulate, which grows in the washes here - and in our yard.  

It grows in most major washes in our area.  There are nice specimens of this tree along Warm Springs Wash and near the Percha Box, east of Hillsboro, New Mexico, for example.  It requires the equivalent of 18 inches of precipitation a year, which is the reason it is only found along streams and in established washes in this area.  A specimen can grow to 20 or 30 feet and often has a canopy spread of an equal amount.  

The leaves are simple, about 2.5 inches long, darker green on the upperside and light green beneath.  At the base of the leaf, one side is broader than the other.  The texture of the leaf is interesting, it feels like a piece of medium grit sandpaper.

The pea-sized berries of the Netleaf Hackberry (a.k.a. Western Hackberry) are relished by many bird species and are often found in mammal scat.  Hominini have foraged on hackberry (various species) berries for hundreds of thousands of years.  In the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, the berries of the Netleaf Hackberry were eaten fresh, and processed, by the Apache tribes (especially the Chiricahua and Mescalero).

Its bark is smooth in sections and nubby in others, grayish in color.

The range of the Netleaf Hackberry is limited (for the most part) to the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico.  Specimens are found as far north as the Columbia Basin in Washington/Oregon, USA.   It generally grows at an elevation of 2,500 to 6,000 feet (and almost always at elevations lower than 7,500) and is hardy to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

To bring symmetry to my appreciation of this species, it was first described by John Torrey (for whom the Torrey Pine is named) in the Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York 1: 247. 1824, from a specimen collected by Hinton in Mexico.  John Torrey's work on the natural history of the southwest included writing and publishing the reports on plants collected during the Fremont Expedition to the Rocky Mountains (1845), the plants collected by Emory on his expedition from Kansas to San Diego, California (1848), and those collected on the Mexican Boundary Survey of 1859.

It is, of course, the gnarly habit of this species which I find so attractive.  It has character!

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023