Cannabaceae / Celtis occidentalis – hackberry, nettle tree

The two names of this tree reveal that its leaves look like stinging nettle, and that the tree grows some sort of berries. Only the leaves don’t sting, and the berries aren’t really berries, thought they are quite tasty!

The tree is often confused with the elm, both for its leaves and its growth character. The weakest side twigs are a mere 1.5mm thin and dangle loosely along the stronger growing main branches. The petioles bend at remarkable angles to keep the leaves oriented toward the light, even on the most pendular branches. This is something I have not yet observed so strongly on any other tree.

Along with each leaf also grows a berry that turns from green to orange to dark purple-brown color when ripe. There’s not much pulp to the fruit, but you can eat the entire fruit including the core. They’re crunchy, so watch your teeth, best use your molars! The taste is really good, not at all what you’d expect, a bit like dates.

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