Spiny Hackberry Berries

Spiny Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana, formerly Celtis pallida) is a native, desert shrub common here in Tucson. While Spiny Hackberry flowers are tiny and inconspicuous, their bright orange, pea-sized berries certainly are not. Ripe Spiny Hackberry berries contrast nicely with the shrub's green leaves and look quite enticing to eat. Luckily, their enticing berries are edible and pleasantly sweet-tasting, but they are not strongly flavored.

Spiny Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana, formerly Celtis pallida)

I'm always amazed at how many edible, wild-growing plants there are here in the Sonoran Desert, and Spiny Hackberry berries are just one of many. There are numerous Spiny Hackberry bushes growing in Sabino Canyon, which is where I photographed this one, and these plants are absolutely covered in ripe berries in late August through September.

Spiny Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana, formerly Celtis pallida) berries

The berries are safe to eat, but I don't know how edible Spiny Hackberry leaves are, or what they taste like, but many dogs are partial to them. All of my dogs delight in eating them even though the branches have woody spines. During our walks, my dogs will often lunge forward to the end of their leashes to snatch mouthfuls of leaves when we pass a Spiny Hackberry bush. I've also seen coyotes eating the leaves, which makes me think that they are not poisonous, as coyotes by necessity have much better desert survival skills than dogs.