Celtis australis

Common name   European Hackberry
Hebrew name   מיש דרומי
Family Cannabaceae
Leaf form Simple
Leaf margin Dentate
צורת הגבעול Round
Life form Tree
Distribution in Israel Golan, Gallilee, Mediterranean coast, Carmel, Samarian mountains, Judean mountains,
Flowering months


European Hackberry
© Photo: Sara Gold   , September
© All rights reserved.

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Additional information

The European Hackberry is a large deciduous tree, which reaches a height of up to 20 meters. It is not clear whether it grows wild in Israel, or whether all the individuals in Israel were planted or escaped from cultivation. It has distinct asymmetrical leaves, with the apex tilted to one side and the midvein divides the leaf it into two unequal parts. The leaf margin is dentate, with a length of 10 cm. The lower part is covered with hairs (hirsute). Its relative Ulmus (elm) has a similar asymmetrical leaf, but differs in its fruit: the elm has a compressed samara whereas Celtis australis has a spherical fruit, which is black when ripe, with a large stone in the center. The pulp of the fruit is edible.
Celtis australis blooms in the spring. The green-yellowish flowers are small. Its wood is used for ornamental objects, furniture, tool handles and saddles. The bark is smooth, and light gray in color.
Celtis australis grows mainly in the northern part of Israel. Its global distribution is across the Mediterranean countries. The genus contains 80 species, most of which grow in the Northern Hemisphere.


Written by Mike Livne


Celtis australis is mentioned in the Mishnah in Tractate Tamid as a tree commonly used for the fire in the alter of the Temple. An infusion of its boiled bark is used for a bath that is supposed to alleviate joint pain and skin sores.

The main benefit of Celtis australis is its attribute against demons. On this issue it is very beneficial, as Azaria Alon writes:
A person should always keep a chip and bead of Celtis wood in his pocket, since it is known that the demon (the devil) tries to fall upon man. If a person should see a demon about to fall upon him, he will certainly defend himself. What will the demon do? He will disguise himself, so that he will surprise you and you will not be ready to defend yourself. What is his disguise? A he-goat. When you see a he-goat coming towards you, how will you know if it just a he-goat, or whether it is a demon disguised as a he-goat? Very simple: take the Celtis chip and the bead out of your pocket and mumble: “Ho he-goat, ho he-goat, do you not see the bead and branch of Celtis? Then, if it is just a he-goat, it will not understand what you are saying to it, but it is not dangerous. If it is a demon disguised as a he-goat, he will immediately turn his tail on you and will run for his life. This is well known! (At the end of such a story it is important to always add “This is well known!”).