Known for the most bending tolerance of any wood, the Hackberry is mostly grown as an ornamental tree. Approx. 80 feet tall with large, simple leaves it's part of the elm family. Found many times in botanical gardens for it's delicate flowering and sweet fruit (like a date) the Hackberry provides plenitful foodplant and pollen source.
The wood of hackberry has never been used to any large extent due to its softness and an almost immediate propensity to rot when in contact with the elements. The berries, however are edile (in some species) and used sparingly in a Korean tea.
An East Tennessee legend of a wounded British officer and the Cherokee Indians features a hackberry. When the chief's daughter Nocatula fell in love with the Brit Conestoga, jealousy in the tribe led to Conestogas death. In despair, Nocatula drew the knife from his fatal wound and plunged it into her heart.
Her father ordered the bodies buried together and placed an acorn in Conestoga's right hand and a hackberry seed in Nocatula's. The following year, the story goes, sprouts of an oak tree and a hackberry tree appeared. As they grew, their branches intertwined.
The trees stood on the grounds of Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens until the 1940s
Follow more "American Hardwoods" in our weekly series on Edge of the Wildwood, and learn how to identify and utilize wood products. Next week we will take a look at Hickory.