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Massive Hackberry winds Mayor’s Tree of the Year

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) – A towering hackberry growing outside Mangiamo restaurant for an estimated 120 years is being recognized as the Mayor’s Tree of the Year for 2015.

Also known as Celtis occidentalis, the hackberry isn’t as recognizable as the three previous winners, but give it the respect it deserves.

The massive shade tree on the grounds of the popular Lake Drive SE restaurant has a diameter of 42 inches and soars more than 60 feet tall.

“This lovely setting here at Mangiamo would not be nearly as lovely without the tree,” said Dottie Clune, chair of the city’s Urban Forestry Committee. “So one of our big areas of focus is not only planting trees, but also the importance of preserving trees like this.”

About two-dozen people attended today’s ceremony, hosted by the Urban Forestry Committee and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Its dense canopy provided ample protection from a mid-day shower during Tuesday’s dedication ceremony.

“The whole idea is to raise awareness in the city of the important contribution of trees in making our city desirable and sustainable,” Clune said. “Grand Rapids has a 40 percent canopy goal because we know how much trees add environmental benefits, economic benefits and quality of life.”

Hackberry trees are fast-growing, tough and durable. They’re favored in urban settings due to a tolerance for wind and city conditions. Hackberry trees grow between 40 and 70 feet tall with a spread of 50 feet and sport yellow foliage in fall.

Its fruit is popular with birds in winter, including cedar waxwing, mockingbird and robins.

Previous winners:

2014: An American elm, estimated to be between 80 and 100 years old at 820 Monroe Ave. NW;

2013: A burr oak with a 44-inch diameter located at Aberdeen Park at Eastern Avenue and Evelyn Street NE;

2012: A 55-foot tall white ash along Wealthy Street west of Diamond Avenue SE.

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