What Is Hackberry Wood?

The hackberry tree has been around for decades. Hackberries are nutritious and produce edible fruits, but there’s more to the hackberry tree than the leaves and stems. The hackberry wood serves many purposes for woodworkers, crafters, and artists. But very few people understand the property characteristics and extent of application of this multi-purpose wood. What is hackberry wood? What are its features, odor, color, durability, workability, toxicity, and more? 

Here is a quick preview after the investigation:

What Is Hackberry Wood?

Hackberry wood (Celtis) is a perishable, non-durable type of hardwood that originates from Eastern North America. The wood has both sapwood (light yellow) and heartwood (light brown to gray) susceptible to fungal staining. Hackberry wood is suitable for steam bending and works well with tools and hands. Hackberry wood can be used for woodworking, furniture, carving, smoking meat, burning, and firewood.

This article seeks to offer detailed information about hackberry wood. In addition, it will also explore other topics, including: 

  • Specs and property characteristics of hackberry
  • Pros and cons of hackberry wood
  • Applications of hackberry wood
  • FAQs about hackberry wood

You’ll also learn more information about the wood and other related things.

Let’s keep reading!

Property characteristics

Scientific name(s)Celtis(nettle trees)
Origin/DistributionEastern North America
TypeCeltis occidentalis, Celtis laevigata
ColorWhite sapwood and dark heartwood
Odor Mild odor 
Texture/Grain Coarse
Diameter20 inches (50 cm)
Log Durability Non-durable
Specific Gravity 49, .60
Janka Hardness 880 lbf (3,910 N)
Rupture Modulus11,000 lbf/in2 (75.9 MPa)
Crushing Strength37.5
Elastic Modulus1,190,000 lbf/in2 (8.21 GPa)
Coeff. of volumetric shrinkage13.8%
Total tangential shrinkage (TS)8.9%
Total radial shrinkage (RS): 4.8%
TS/RS ratio1.9

Origin & History

Hackberry, or common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis as scientific name), is a moderately long-spanned deciduous tree that originates from North America. It produces a light-colored wood, ranging from yellowish gray to light brown. Its cork-like bark, yellow streaks, and wart-like swellings make it distinguishable from some other hackberries and elms. It contains coarse-textured leaves that gall-producing insects can eat. Hackberry is used in parts of Serbia and Slovakia as a street tree. 

Color: what does hackberry wood look like?

Naturally, hackberry wood has a color range, depending on whether it is heartwood or sapwood. The sapwood comes as a contrasting light yellow material, while the heartwood has a range of light brown to gray. However, if not properly processed, the hackberry wood will lose its appearance due to a blue-gray fungal stain. It has a wart and appearance. 

Identification: how do you identify hackberry wood?

To identify the hackberry wood, you must identify the colors of the wood’s heartwood and sapwood. The heartwood comes in light brown or gray, whereas the sapwood is a light yellow wood. The sapwood can also be identified with white ash wood. Hackberry is either a bit interlocked or straight concerning its grain.

Durability and Treatability

Hackberry wood is generally known to be no-durable. The wood’s perishability level is also very high. This is why it is only considered best for interior use. It can easily be discolored. The wood will turn from pale yellow to greenish-yellow or gray with blue sap stain. 


Generally, hackberry is known for being irritable to the eye and skin. However, hackberries are edible, and the fruits they produce are suitable for animals and humans. You’ll feel allergic to the dust that the wood produces and when inhaled it can cause irritation.


Hackberry wood works well with machine tools and manual. What it means is that you won’t have to pre-drill any holes before hammering the nails and screws into the wood. This way, you can save a lot of time and energy. Again, the straight grain of hackberry planes and bores perfectly. However, the interlocks and knots in the wooden parts can be a little difficult to handle with machines. This makes turning and shaping a bit difficult. 


Hackberry like other organic materials can decay over time due to biochemical degradation and actions. Being a hard, deciduous wood, hackberry is porous due to vessel pores. The best way to treat and conserved waterlogged hackberry wood is to use acetone-rosin. Generally, the method reduces the amount of radial (4.8%), volumetric (13.8%), and tangential (8.9%) shrinkages the hackberry wood experiences during drying. 

Pros and Cons of Hackberry 


  • Responds excellently to steam bending
  • Hackberry is a quick-growing tree
  • Intermediate volumetric shrinkage of 13.8 per cent. 
  • Used as medicine in treating many infections such as sore throat, cold, and menstrual cycle.
  • Used in making small decorative objects (boxes and crates) thanks to its low density
  • Excellent for making cheap interior furniture, turned objects, and veneers
  • Serves as a source of food
  • Low smokes and sparks
  • Slight pleasant fragrance


  • Easily susceptible to fungi infection such as witch broom disease 
  • Not resistant to discoloration, rot, and insect attack
  • Perishable and non-durable 
  • When spalted or stained, hackberry can give a foul odor
  • Causes skin and eye irritation
  • Absorbs moisture very easily

How long does it take hackberry to dry?

Typically, you should expect that it will take one year for your hackberry wood to completely dry. However, you can use a moderate kiln schedule as a drying agent to speed up the drying process. This will deliver the kind of fire you desire. Don’t forget that proper drying makes a lot of difference in getting a quality flame. If unseasoned or freshly cut, hackberry wood will sputter and won’t burn well. 

How long does hackberry wood take to grow?

A lot depends on the growth rate of a hackberry tree. They include soil, the cultivation conditions, method of cultivation method (natural or greenhouse), and the kind of seedlings being planted. Hackberry trees need clay loam soil to grow well. On average, if you use the greenhouse method to cultivate, your hackberry can grow 1.3 feet per year. It’ll have increased to 2.5 or 3 feet by the second year

What does hackberry wood smell like?

Hackberry wood has a slightly sweet-smelling flavor and pleasant fragrance. This makes the wood perfect for burning and smoking meat and fish. It adds a lot of sweet touch to anything on it. 

Price: Is hackberry wood expensive? 

On average, you should be prepared to pay as much as $1.5 per board foot of hackberry lumber. The price can be less. It’s worth mentioning that hackberry is available only in its natural varieties. It’s often offered as utility lumber, making its price a little modest. When stained or spalted, hackberry can be slightly pricey.  

Types of Hackberry

Hackberry comes from different species. The common type is the Celtis species. Other varieties of hackberry trees are:

  • Prairie Sentinel: rare columnar 
  • Green cascade: rare weeping type
  • Prairie pride: highly durable and disease-resistant type. It can hold out against adverse conditions
  • Magnifica: a cross between prairie pride (common hackberry) and Celtis laevigata (sugarberry). It can withstand witch’s broom disease.
  • Celtis reticulata: also called Western hackberry or Netleaf hackberry
  • Dwarf hackberry

Application: What is hackberry wood good for?

1. furniture

There’s a lot that makes hackberry wood suitable and ideal for furniture. It is hardwood and will provide quality ruggedness and incredible solidity for your furniture. It works well to make cabinets, tables, chairs, stools, and other household furniture. It also shines brightly with incredible smoothness.

2. woodworking

Hackberry is an excellent wood pick for making woodworking. Just as you’ll find it suitable for furniture making, hackberry works perfectly to be used in a wide range of aspects in woodworking. However, hackberry wood may not appeal to woodturners due to its low rugged nature and more coarse texture.

3. carving

Hackberry wood readily comes to mind if you need quality wood for carving. It beats many other more complex kinds of wood, like ash, when it comes to being used for carving. But when carving with hackberry, you must avoid splinters along straight grain. Instead, use stop cuts and take shorter strokes. Additionally, significantly if you’re cutting rough-in work- go for deeper bevels of 25-30 degrees. It works better. But note that hackberry is a highly coarse wood. 

4. burning

The wood can also be used for burning and heating things up. Hackberry boasts a higher on-heat log rate than what you’ll find if you’re using softwoods out there. It’s to be said that hackberry wood burns with relatively low BTU when compared to other hardwood counterparts. It leaves quality coals behind, letting your wood stoves keep burning on cold and hot nights. 

5. firewood

Hackberry wood makes a great choice when you’re thinking of wood for firewood. As a relatively hard and heavy wood, hackberry gives off produce low sparks or smoke. In addition, it produces relatively lower MBtu for its weight. Another reason hackberry is good for firewood is that it is quick to dry, easy to split, and produces quality fragrance when burning.  

6. smoking meat

Hackberry wood is suitable and safe for smoking meat like oak, cedar, and hickory. This is because the tree contains some sweet-smelling flavor. It infuses this into the smoked meat. The flavor is similar to what you get from fruitwoods and cherry. Besides, hackberry wood smokes the meat long and hard.

How to get hackberry wood to keep from rotting?

Naturally, the hackberry tree is rated as having little or no resistance to witches’ broom fungal disease, insect attack, rot, and discoloration. To get it to keep from rotting, the following remedy will work:

  • Garden carefully around the tree
  • Cut off and burn affected branches 
  • Remove clusters from the young hackberry tree


Can I cook with hackberry?

Hackberry wood isn’t good to prepare food. The wood contains some level of toxicity, making it allergic to the skin and eye. It gives off some toxic dust that makes it unsafe for food and cooking. However, the finished and refined products from hackberry wood can be used for cooking. 

How to avoid hackberry green mold in wood?

The best way to avoid hackberry green mold in wood is to avoid planting the tree in a fungus-infested area. Alternatively, you can use varieties of disease-resistant trees. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to cure green mold once they infest your hackberry tree.  

What removes hackberry sap from wood?

To remove hackberry sap from wood, it takes these three steps:

  • Wipe concentrated oil soap over affect area
  • Allow the wood to soak up the soap for about 10 to 15 minutes
  • Using a water-doused stiff-bristle brush to scrub off the sap 

What does the wood inside a hackberry tree look like?

The color of the heartwood inside a hackberry tree is light brown. It can also come in the form of gray. However, the sapwood looks like a white ash wood and is light yellow. The grain of the wood can either be occasionally interlocked or usually straight. 

What does hackberry wood look like when cut?

Naturally, hackberry wood looks like a wide, dark heartwood and white sapwood the first time you cut it to logs. It may also look like ash, but it doesn’t possess an equal degree of ruggedness. In fact, hackberry’s grain also looks ash.  

What wood is similar to hackberry?

Sugarberry or sugar hackberry, known by its scientific name as Celtis laevigata, is a wood that has similar features and properties as hackberry. It is found in southern Illinois and Indiana. To the west, sugarberry is found in the Rio Grande and in Virginia to southern Florida. The difference is that sugarberry has a less warty bark than its hackberry counterpart.  

What kind of wood is hackberry?

Typically, hackberry is a grainy hardwood. Although the color you’ll see when you first cut the hackberry tree is wide, dark heartwood and white sapwood, it behaves like elm. It’s a beautiful wood with a vintage grade over elm and ash. 

Are hackberry trees worth anything?

Yes, hackberry trees are beautiful and worth every penny you put on them. You can use hackberry for tree replacement value. The tree is also valuable as lumber. Overall, there is a market value on the local hardwood lumber of the hackberry tree. 

Final words

With the information contained in this article, you’ve been equipped with the correct details to know about hackberry wood. From its specs to pros, cons, properties, and FAQs, there is so much to learn about this species of wood. You know the various applications of this wood and how it can help you achieve a lot as a woodworker.  

Undoubtedly, everyone would love to make this wood their number-one pick when they need wood for carving, woodworking, smoking meat, firewood, burning, and firewood. Hackberry wood spots all your needs in a wood with almost all its parts useful for different purposes. 

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