Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dwarf Hackberry

The Dwarf Hackberries have recently had a couple of rough growing years. Late frosts and extreme droughts managed to almost eliminate fruit production in 2009 and 2010. 2011 provided milder temperatures and plentiful rainfall which resulted in an abundance of Dwarf Hackberry fruit. You can’t say that the branches are straining to hold up the bounty, but this is a heavy crop for the typical Dwarf Hackberry.

Dwarf Hackberry is one of the Blue Jay Barrens rarities. I do what I can to keep the trees from being adversely impacted by things like competitive vegetation, but I haven’t yet learned to control the weather. We’re at the northern extreme of the Dwarf Hackberry’s range and weather is a primary factor influencing the survival of this southern species. I hope the birds distribute these seeds to suitable locations around the property.

When you combine the hackberry’s naturally unusual growth pattern with damage caused by weather extremes, you get a decidedly odd looking tree. People are constantly suggesting that I remove these obviously inferior tree specimens. My assurance that the trees are just doing what they are meant to do seems to carry little weight in the discussion. Fortunately, I’m able to dismiss these suggestions as having no merit and can continue to manage things as I think best.

Lichens seem to find the branches of the Dwarf Hackberry to be desirable places to colonize. Dead branches are always covered with lichens, but the lichens also grow on the living branches without any apparent damage to the tree.

There appears to be a variety of lichen colors and shapes represented here. I’m wondering if this lichen covering is typical of Dwarf Hackberries across their range. I may look into that when I have time to squeeze lichen identification into my schedule.


  1. Those are some serious lichens! They're beautiful, I've only seen lichens like that in the higher elevations along the Appalachian Trail. Very unusual at low elevations. The Hackberries are cool too, I've never seen any around here in SW VA.

  2. I enjoy your blog, Steve, and am glad to be home for a few weeks where I can get it and other blogs to load without timing out.

    We have Hackberries, too, and the birds make quite a fuss over the berries.


  3. This is a great little tree, and so variable. I've seen mature ones that look quite tree-like, with big trunks and about 15ft tall, but one can also find thigh-high individuals with turnks barely over an inch in diameter, that put out about a half dozen fruits in a good year, and never seem to grow at all!

  4. Hi Julie. I think I'm in a prime zone for lichens. They seem to grow on every thing here.

    Thanks Lois. It sounds like the internet connections you get while traveling are like what I get at home all the time.

    Hi James. I get the same variation in tree size. There are some that have been about 18 inches tall for the past 20 years.

  5. One of my favorite small trees - I've collected a number of wood boring beetles from it. The lichens look very similar to those that are common on honey locust - I wonder if they are the same.

  6. Hi Ted. I've never noticed any boring beetles on the specimens here. I'll keep a closer watch from now on. One of these days I'll pull out my lichen texts and see how much lichen ID I can learn.