A desert wildlife hotel

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desert hackberry
Celtis ehrenbergia
ulmaceae

  • moderate to low water (terrace to top zone)

  • FULL SUN 

  • HARDY TO 10º F

  • To about 8' tall, 10' wide 

  • inconspicuous flowers in spring followed by orange fruits

  • larval host to many butterflies

  • nectar source for butterflies, moths, bees, shelter and fruit for birds and small mammals

  • KEYSTONE SPECIES of the desert

Any shrub that gives fruits in the desert is going to be a great wildlife plant. But if the plant can also provide shelter for nests and dense shade, it becomes something of a keystone species. Desert hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana) definitely falls into the category of plants considered keystone species. 

Growing to about 8 feet tall and spreading about 10 feet (if unpruned), desert hackberry is a semi-evergreen shrub with coarse, sandpapery leaves. The foliage is often dense, creating much-needed shade in the desert, but may drop leaves during severe cold spells or intense drought. The leaves quickly reemerge after such spells. This species is hardy to about 10º F. 

A number of butterfly caterpillars rely on desert hackberry as a food source such as Emperors, American Snout, and Red-bordered Metalmark. Birds use these shrubs as shelter and nesting sights, and the spring-arriving flowers provide nectar for a large host of nectar-loving insects like bees, butterflies, and moths and the fruits feed birds and small mammals. 

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Katherine Gierlach