Hackberry trees have a very distinctive bark covered with rough scales and ridges. They tolerate a wide range of conditions, from dry soils to high winds and air pollution. They are one the best trees for urban spaces, and their resemblance to elm trees makes them a good choice to replace our declining elms.
Hackberries produce flowers and leaves between late April and early May. Their flowers give way to fruits which ripen in the fall. These purple fruits are often eaten by birds before they can fall to the ground. As part of our horticulture program at Madison Square Park, we keep data on five species of trees. The Hackberry is one of the trees we’ve been tracking. Our horticulturists take note of when they bud in the spring, when they flower, and when they seed. This information helps us establish a rhythm of the seasons, and shows how our plants respond over time. It is also a vital tool in our understanding the effects of climate change.