Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Small’s Hackberry - Celtis smallii   Beadle
Members of Cannabaceae:
Members of Celtis with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Cannabaceae
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DistributionVery poorly known, as this is a recent and probably controversial split as a full species. Weakley’s (2018) map shows it as “common” in the Piedmont but “rare” in the Mountains and Coastal Plain. The iNaturalist website shows a handful records for the state, all from the Piedmont; however, only 7-8 total records are shown for the species, and thus it is not clear what its overall and statewide ranges are -– other than seemingly mostly found in the Piedmont. The range map (below) is quite incomplete at the present time.

Weakley (2018) gives the range as “VA and KY south to GA and AL, mainly inland.”
AbundanceSeemingly fairly common to locally common in the Piedmont and rare elsewhere, but specific abundance details are not yet known. The suggested State Rank of S4? is based mostly on the apparent abundance in the Piedmont.
HabitatWeakley (2018) says “Glades, woodlands, forests.” This habitat description suggests that the species may be more often found in uplands, and in high pH conditions, than the very similar C. laevigata, which is clearly a wetland species found mainly in bottomlands. It appears that such more-serrated leaved plants -- i.e., this species -- grow in mesic to rich uplands or at the outer/upper edges of floodplains, and are not so strongly found along the margins of rivers and levees as is C. laevigata. As such, C. smallii is more often found on the edges of hardwood forests more so than is the other species.
PhenologyFlowers in April and May, and fruits from August to October (Weakley 2018).
IdentificationThis deciduous tree seems very similar to the familiar Sugarberry (C. laevigata), except that that species has primarily entire leaves or leaves that are rather remotely serrated. Weakley (2018) indicates that the separating character between C. smallii and C. laevigata are that “Leaves subtending fruits with margins with 2-15 teeth 1-2 mm long on each side” for C. smallii, versus “Leaves subtending fruits with margins entire or with 1-2 teeth 0.5-1 mm long on one side only (leaves of juvenile plants or of vigorous leader shoots may be more strongly toothed)” for C. laevigata. Based on photos on the iNaturalist website, C. smallii should have more serrated leaves, obvious at a little distance, whereas C. laevigata leaves are generally entire or only very slightly or minutely serrated. It might be difficult to find leaves that subtend fruits, however; thus, can normal leaves be used for separation?
Taxonomic CommentsVery few references other than Weakley (2018) have this taxon split out as a good species; as this website follows his taxonomic treatment, C. smallii is given a species account here. Most references do not even list this as a variety, whereas several do – as C. laevigata var. smallii.

Other Common Name(s)None?
State Rank[S4?]
Global RankGNR
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