Content Detail

Native to southern Illinois, sugarberry is closely related to a more northern species, common hackberry. Sugarberry has fewer problems with leaf galls and witch’s broom. The bark is also smoother and less warty than that of common hackberry.

  • Family (English) Hemp (formerly Elm)
  • Family (botanic) Cannabaceae (formerly Ulmacaeae)
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-60 feet
  • Mature width 40-60 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Excessive sucker growth, May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Game birds, Sapsuckers, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Sugarberry’s mature height and width is 40 to 60 feet with a round form. 

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is a native to the southern part of the United States. It is commonly found in low, wet sites.

Attracts birds, pollinators and mammals:

It attracts songbirds, sapsuckers, and game birds.

Bark color and texture:

Although the bark shows some of the wartiness of the related species common hackberry, it is overall much smoother.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple, alternate leaves are 2 to 4 inches long with simple, ovate to egg-shaped smooth surfaces. The leaf margin is finely toothed or entire. Leaves look similar to elm leaves. Fall color is an unremarkable yellow.

Flower description:

The inconspicuous flowers will be male, female, or perfect.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

A single fleshy, edible, berry-like drupe, 1/3 inch diameter that starts out green and changes to orange or red in early autumn. 

Plant care:

Sugarberry does best in full sun to full shade with moist, well-drained or wet soil. It is tolerant of many soil conditions and moderately tolerant of drought. It is a relatively low-maintenance tree. Pruning should be done during the dormant season.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

It is susceptible to witch’s broom and hackberry nipple gall, but less so than common hackberry.


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