Celtis ehrenbergiana: Desert Hackberry Small tree
This gnarly, thorny tree or large shrub with semi-evergreen foliage grows to twelve feet and spreads to eight to ten feet. It has smooth, grayish brown stems and a trunk armed with spines. This tree produces small, oval, bright grayish green foliage with slightly serrated edges. The leaves drop when the temperature falls below twenty degrees Fahrenheit. Inconspicuous, greenish white flowers form in the spring and again during summer monsoons.
Pea-sized, bright orange, edible berries appear later, attracting cactus wrens, green jays, coyotes, jackrabbits, and other wildlife. Quail especially like to forage for fruits that have fallen to the ground, and they use this plant to nest. The desert hackberry likes full sun to partial shade and prefers some irrigation, especially during the hot, summer months. It grows natively in dry, rocky soils and tolerates most soil conditions that are well draining. Be careful of its thorns when pruning or shaping.
This tree is a tough-as-nails plant that can survive rugged conditions. Use it as a barrier plant, screen, or wild- life attractor, or for revegetation and erosion control. The desert native is a host to a few species of butterfly larvae that feed on its new leaves in the spring. This tree can also be found in southern Texas, Arizona, and in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts of Baja California and east to Chihuahua and south to Oaxaca, Mexico, where it grows naturally in washes at elevations of 3,000 to 8,000 feet.