European hackberry (Celtis australis), also known as European Nettle tree, Mediterranean Hackberry and Lote tree, is a medium to large-sized deciduous tree in the family Ulmaceae. Native to France, India, Italy, Pakistan, Turkey, and the former Yugoslavia, C. australis is a tree of sub-tropical to temperate climates.
C. australis has a straight stem up to 25 m tall and 60 cm dbh (diameter at breast height); crown spreading; bark bluish-grey, smooth or with horizontal wrinkles when older; branchlets and twigs smooth and greenish-grey; leaves are alternate, obliquely ovate to lanceolate, 7-13 cm long and 3-7 cm wide, base serrate or sometimes smooth, strongly 3-neved. Flowers are small, greenish, in axillary shoots on year-old twigs. Fruits are berry-like "drupes", ovoid or cylindrical, 6-12 mm long, yellow then purple or black, fleshy with one white seed.
The fruit of C. australis is reported to have been the Lotus of the ancients, whose fruit Herodotus, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus described as sweet, pleasant, and wholesome. Homer's Ulysses refers to the ‘Lotus-eaters’ and the ‘lotus’ in Odyssey, another reference to the fruit of this tree.
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