Celtis australis (European Nettle) is a deciduous tree native to southern Europe, North Africa, and parts of western Asia. The European Hackberry is a medium to large-sized tree that can reach heights of 50 to 80 feet (15 to 25 meters). It has a rounded crown and a spreading, often gnarled, growth habit.
The bark is grayish-brown and develops corky ridges as the tree ages. The leaves are alternate, simple, and serrated, with an elliptical shape and a rough texture. They are typically dark green and turn yellow in the fall.
Flowers and Fruits: The European Hackberry produces small, inconspicuous flowers that are greenish-yellow in color. The flowers are followed by small, round fruits that ripen to a dark purple or black color. The fruits are about ¼ inch (6 millimeters) in diameter and are edible, although they have a somewhat dry and mealy texture. The fruits are attractive to birds, which help disperse the seeds.
Habitat and Range: Celtis australis is commonly found in warm-temperate and subtropical regions. It thrives in various habitats, including woodlands, forests, riverbanks, and rocky slopes. It is well-suited to Mediterranean climates with mild winters and hot, dry summers.
Uses: The wood of Celtis australis is valued for its hardness and durability. It is used in the production of furniture, cabinetry, veneer, and tool handles. The tree is also planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens due to its attractive foliage, interesting bark texture, and tolerance of urban conditions. In some regions, the fruits are collected and used to make jams, jellies, and alcoholic beverages.
Ecological Importance: The European Hackberry provides habitat and food for various wildlife species. Its fruits are an important food source for birds, which help spread the tree's seeds. The tree also supports a variety of insects and is a host plant for the caterpillars of certain butterfly species.