An exotic species of the Celtis genus commonly cultivated in South Africa, the handsome Celtis sinensis originates from Eastern Asia and has become naturalised in urban open spaces. This species is found in a wide variety of habitats from riverine forests, to drier inland areas as well as open woodlands. Often confused with White stinkwood, Celtis sinensis is deciduous and can reach a height of up to 20m. This tree is also fast growing, with a large, spreading habit.
The leaves are dark green, ovate, glossy above and softly hairy underneath. They are also only toothed in the upper third towards the apex and on the leaf margin. Small, greenish flowers are present for a brief period during early spring before the ovoid dark orange fruits are produced in Autumn. These fruits are produced at the time when leaves turn golden yellow before falling to the ground thus adding more beauty to the garden. The smooth to finely rough bark of the Chinese hackberry is pale grey with shallow ridges and furrows that widen towards the base of the tree.
This tree’s spreading crown provides a cool dappled shade in summer while the interesting pattern of fine grey branches create a stunning shape in winter when the tree is leafless. C.sinensis is highly adaptable and does well in a variety of soil types from moist, fertile conditions to poor dry soils. It grows equally well whether planted in shade, semi shade or full sun. This tree is also hardy, withstanding high winds as well as drought conditions.
Celtis sinensis is tolerant to urban pollution hence its suitability as a street tree. It is also an excellent tree for parks and large gardens and an ideal tree for bonsai as well. This tree has a deep root system therefore it must be planted in areas where there is plenty of soil space.