Mayor’s Tree of the Year 2015 – not so “common” Common Hackberry

unnamedThe annual Mayor’s Tree of the Year competition is a joint project of the Grand Rapids Urban Forestry Committee and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.  The Urban Forestry Committee selects the winner from among nominations submitted by community members.  The competition aims to promote community involvement in the City’s urban forest and to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining and preserving trees.

“The City of Grand Rapids, the Urban Forestry Committee, and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks are strongly committed to strengthening our urban forest and achieving the community’s 40% canopy goal,’ Dotti Clune, chair of the Urban Forestry Committee, said.  “The Mayor’s Tree of the Year highlights the role of trees in making Grand Rapids a desirable and sustainable city.”

Earlier this month, the Urban Forestry Committee selected this year’s honoree: a towering, 41-inch diameter common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) tree located on the grounds of Mangiamo! restaurant at 1033 Lake Drive SE.

“This tree, and all of the other trees on the beautiful Mangiamo! grounds, are an excellent example of the important role that trees on private property play in achieving our 40% canopy goal,” Clune said.  “Tree preservation and planting on private property, which comprises more than 90% of the land in Grand Rapids, is critical to our gaining the economic, environmental and quality of life benefits that a 40% canopy will provide.”

Although not a commonly recognized tree, Hackberries are gaining in popularity for use on urban streets and in parks because they’re known for tolerating heat, drought, salt, air pollution, and strong winds. Hackberries produce a berry-like dark purple fruit that is a food source for many birds; the tree also provides important habitat for several species of butterflies.

Growing to 40-60 feet, hackberry is characterized by corky bark and shiny dark green leaves that turn yellow in the fall. Although it is a member of the elm family and its growth pattern resembles elms, hackberry is much less susceptible to disease than elms.  Hackberries are native to the southern half of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

The Urban Forestry Committee also acknowledged two runners up: a 47” diameter red oak on the southeast corner of Hollister Ave. SE and Cherry St. SE and a 20” diameter white oak located in the Congress School playground off Lake Drive between Diamond and Eastern Avenues SE.

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