Mayor’s Tree of the Year Announced


Town of Chapel Hill Press Release

A shagbark hickory tree in the Meadowmont neighborhood has been named Chapel Hill’s first-ever Mayor’s Tree of the Year.

The magnificent tree was one of 14 trees nominated for this inaugural honor.

“The Tree of the Year contest highlights Chapel Hill connections to the trees in Chapel Hill,” said Mayor Pam Hemminger.  “Our judging panel appreciated the fact that shagbark hickories are important to our Piedmont region and really liked the fact that, to date, nine of the tree’s `babies’ have been transplanted to other locations within Meadowmont.”

Momma is an impressive, Shagbark Hickory tree that towers above all the other trees in the Chapel Hill neighborhood of Meadowmont. She is featured prominently on the Meadowmont logo because Momma is a much beloved member of the Meadowmont community with a very important job to do.

The Shagbark Hickory tree is named for its thick bark plate that is attached at the middle, with both ends curving away from the trunk and giving the tree a truly shaggy appearance. Once plentiful in North Carolina, shagbark hickory trees have seen a significant decline in our area since colonial days. European settlers used Shagbark Hickory wood for heating fuel, because it burns slower and hotter than other firewoods. It also produces a fragrant smoke when burned, which was, and still is, used for curing meats. Its tough wood is also ideal for crafting axe handles, wagon wheels, flooring and furniture. These beneficial traits of the tree led to overuse and the subsequent tragic deforestation of Shagbark Hickories in our area. Additionally, compared to most trees, they grow very slowly and are difficult to plant, which makes re-population challenging.

Fortunately, the Meadowmont community has taken a special interest in bringing back the Shagbark Hickory to Chapel Hill. Whenever a baby tree sapling is found growing beneath Momma, it is carefully dug up and re-planted somewhere else within the Meadowmont Community. As of 2013, there have been nine “Shagbark Hickory Babies” successfully transplanted, and hopefully there will be many more of Momma’s babies grown at Meadowmont in the future.

Momma is a tall and magnificent symbol of the importance of tree preservation, located at the gateway into Chapel Hill. She can be easily spotted at the top of the hill to the left of the fountain in the main meadow that runs along Raleigh Road/Highway 54 — in between the Duke Speech Pathology at Meadowmont building and Morgan Creek Capital Management on West Barbee Chapel Road. The best view of Momma is from the highway, or the jogging path on the edge of the highway, heading west. 

Here are the Google Map coordinates where Momma is located.

Two other trees were awarded the title of “Runner Up.” One is a willow oak on Willow Drive that serves as a community meeting spot.  The other is a 15-year-old Japanese maple tree that was rescued, as a sapling, from a crack in the pavement on the top of the Wallace parking deck in downtown.

All Tree of the Year participants are invited to attend an awards presentation at the start of a Town Council meeting on January 8, 2020.

This year’s entries and their stories can be viewed on the Trees in Chapel Hill webpage:

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