Common hackberry is a medium to large tree with a rounded crown.
Leaves are alternate, simple, with one side longer or wider than the other, sharply toothed, rough to the touch, 2–4 inches long, with 3 main veins emerging from the base, tip sharply pointed, base uneven.
Bark is gray, rather smooth when young, becoming covered with distinctive corky, warty projections that eventually join into ridges with age.
Twigs are slender, usually shiny, flexible, zigzag, light brown, becoming gray. Pith is light colored and broken by intermittent chambers.
Flowers April–May; male flowers in clusters toward base of the new branch; female flowers toward the tip, small, single or in pairs.
Fruits in September, fleshy, berrylike, ¼–½ inch wide, ripening to deep purple, borne on long stems, with a single hard seed within, usually persisting through winter.