A bittersweet photo of the fallen Cherry Park’s bitternut hickory!

Sadly, a beloved bitternut hickory was lost at Cherry Park after succumbing to heavy winds this past weekend.  A tree’s ability to withstand high wind varies from species to species. Several characteristics play into its ability to endure gusts: the height and taper of the trunk, the size and shape of the crown, the root system and its depth, and the general strength of the wood.  The Cherry park bitternut hickory had a large co-dominant leader that was unable to withstand the wind speeds.

Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) is a large deciduous tree that can grow upwards of 100 feet tall and can have a diameter of over 3ft!  Bitternut hickory leaves are 15-30 cm long, pinnate, with 7-11 leaflets, each leaflet is about 7-13 cm long. The flowers are small wind-pollinated catkins, produced in spring. The fruit is a very bitter nut, 2-3 cm long with a green four-valved cover which splits off at maturity in the fall with a hard, bony shell.  Another identifying characteristic is its bright sulfur-yellow winter buds. No other hickory has this distinguishing feature.  This tree species is most commonly found in the eastern United States and, fortunately for us, Grand Rapids, Michigan is at its most northern native range.  Bitternut is used for lumber and pulpwood. Because bitternut hickory wood is hard and durable, it is used for furniture, paneling, dowels, tool handles, and ladders. Like other hickories, the wood is used for smoking meat and by Native Americans for making bows.

Cherry tree fall

Check out this photo provided to us by Margaret Werderits, a Friends of Grand Rapids Parks- Parks Alive Leaders trainee.  Margaret counted 146 rings and provided us with this awesome side-by-side photo!  If you would like to champion the park in your neighborhood consider becoming a Parks Alive Leader! 


While the species of tree and its structural characteristics play major roles, proper care can give trees an added advantage in many extreme weather conditions.  Trees should be pruned properly to eliminate weak limbs, to maintain a generally symmetrical crown, and to remove tree health issues such as cankers.  In particular, new plantings and trees under 12 inches in diameter should undergo “training or structural pruning” every 3 to 5 years.  Young tree pruning helps build the structure of the tree by maintaining a strong central leader, removing co-dominant branches, establishing the lowest permanent limb, and ensuring proper air circulation throughout the canopy. Young tree pruning will actually help to grow healthier trees and can prevent future storm damage.  Learn more about young tree pruning at our upcoming After Work Tree Times

Anytime, you have a tree photo, tree story, or anything else to share please feel free to email Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the Urban Forest Project at info@friendsofgrparks.org!



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