Sugarberry (Laevigata)

The Sugarberry (Laevigata) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Sugarberry (Laevigata) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Sugarberry (Laevigata) will reach up to 80 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 35 feet.

The Sugarberry (Laevigata) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -22°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: Sugarberry was used by a variety of Native American tribes. The Houma used a concentrate made from the bark to treat sore throats and a decoction made from the bark and ground up shells to treat venereal disease. The Comanche would beat the fruits of sugarberry to a pulp. The pulp was then mixed with animal fat, rolled into balls, and roasted in the fire for food. The Acoma, Navajo, and Tewa all consumed the berries for food. The Navajo boiled the leaves and branches to make dark brown and red dye for wool.

General Characteristics

General: Elm Family (Ulmaceae). Sugarberry is a tree that can become up to 30 m tall and 1m in diameter. It has a broad crown formed by spreading branches, that are often drooped. The bark is light gray in color and can be smooth or covered with corky warts. The branchlets are covered with short hairs at first and eventually they become smooth. The leaves are alternated, simple, and slightly serrate. The leaves are 5 to 13 cm long and 3 to 5 cm wide. The lance-shaped leaves gradually taper to a point that is often curved. They are pale green on both the upper and lower surfaces with conspicuous veins. The flowers appear just before, or with the leaves in the spring. The drupes are subspherical and 5 to 8 mm in diameter. They have a thick skin and the pit surface has a netlike pattern. The drupes range in color from orange to reddish-brown and are attached by pedicels that are 6 to 15 mm long.

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Habitat: Sugarberry is found growing in sandy loam or rocky soils along streams, in bottomlands, and in woodlands.

Adaptation When sugarberry is top-killed by fire it will resprout from the root collar.

General Upkeep and Control

CEOC"Common hackberry is susceptible to frost damage in the northern portions of its range. For this reason, it is best to plant it in the second or third row of either the windward or leeward half of windbreaks.

A few studies indicate that fire suppresses growth and regeneration of common hackberry. Seedlings will not emerge in sunlight provided by a newly opened canopy. Low intensity fires will injure trees or reduce their reproductive potential while high intensity fires may kill some trees. Wounds caused by fire attract insects or fungi that can pose more problems for the plant.

Pests and Potential Problems Insect and fungal infestations make common hackberry plants unattractive, but generally do not kill them. Common hackberry is host to gall-producing insects including the hackberry petiole gall psylid, hackberry nipplegall maker, hackberry bud gall maker, and the hackberry blistergall psyllid (all in the genus Pachypsylla).

Leaf spot fungi frequently occur on common hackberry trees. More damaging is the witches’ broom disease that causes rosette formation on branch tips. Witches’ broom is initiated by the combined infestation of a gall mite and powdery mildew. Fungal infection by oak fungus (Armillaria mellea) causes root rot on injured trees, leading to death.

Seeds and Plant Production Common hackberry seeds are ready for collection in September and October. They can be dried to less than 5% moisture content and remain viable throughout long storage periods. One study showed no loss in viability following 5.5 years in sealed storage at 10oC. Seeds will germinate at 21oC following 60 to 90 days of cold stratification at 5oC. Germination may increase with sulfuric acid (H2SO4) application. Treat seeds with concentrated H2SO4 for one hour, wash with water, and treat for another hour in H2SO4. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 80
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Green
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -22
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.4–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 20–20 inches/yr
Planting Density 170–300 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA