Collecting Unusual Hackberry

Here is a common hackberry ( Celtis occidentalis ) that I intend to collect early this next spring. It is growing on the edge of a creek behind our home where soil has eroded over time. Consequently, this tree has a dramatically buttressed trunk that forms sort of an elongated oval when viewed from above.

I made the potential mistake of cutting it back hard once the leaves had mostly dropped (no useable branching anywhere near the base). I sealed the wound and after several weeks it appears to be healthy and alive all the way up. I know common hackberry are very hardy and vigorous trees, but should I be concerned about dieback over winter? Would It benefit to wrap in a blanket for potential nights sometimes dropping to -10 F?

Ideally, I would let it recover there for another year to gain energy and branching, but I may not be living here by next spring, and I don’t want to lose out on this potentially very powerful and interesting tree.

Any suggestions on collecting this one? My main concern is how to deal with the roots that are growing sideways into the steep bank to anchor the tree. The soil is sandy and relatively loose which should help. It will definitely need a custom box to plant in.

Any other advice or thoughts are welcome! I am very much a beginner in my first year, and I am dedicated to bonsai now and doing right by all of my trees.

-Andrew VN

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The native variety a pretty tough tree . I found a good one in the woods here in Illinois. If your moving and really want it better grab it with as much roots as possible and put it in an Anderson flat with pumice and protect it from hard frost.


They are really tough trees, but are subject to some die back and rot, as they are soft wood. I would let it remain in the ground as long as you can, it will recover from the chop much better that way, and you will probably get to choose a new leader. If you find out you are having to move, you will just have to collect at that time. Just have all your ducks in a row when you do. Box, pumice, wire, wood or bamboo splints, etc.
This is my advice for collecting deciduous in open soil. root slayer


Thanks for the advice. I already have a root slayer on the way haha. I’m pretty confident we won’t be moving now, so I think I will leave it in the ground through next year. There are a couple of exposed roots on parts of the trunk that wouldn’t work at all; I may just sever those in the spring and let those wounds heal while it’s in the ground. There are tons of smaller hackberry all around, so I think I’ll collect a few insignificant ones this spring so I can get some experience and practice in the species before tackling a tree that I want to survive.