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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

Annual Arbor Day Tree Seedling Giveaway Slated for April 26

Shagbark hickory tree seedlings will be given out free to residents on April 26. The tree is one of the most distinctive of all hickory trees.

By Grace Allen
Norfolk’s DPW will be offering free tree seedlings to residents in celebration of Arbor Day later this month. This is the third year for the popular event.
Two-hundred shagbark hickory seedlings will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at noon on April 26 in the front office of the Department of Public Works, 33 Medway Branch.
You’d better get in line early. Blair Crane, Norfolk’s director of public works and the town’s tree warden, anticipates the seedlings will go quickly.
“Last year, we gave out 100 seedlings in 20 minutes,” Crane said. “With the growing popularity of the program, I doubled the order this year.”
The seedlings will be about two years old and prepackaged in bags with some topsoil to start them off. Instructions will be included. They are grown in nurseries across the country.
Crane chose the shagbark hickory for this year’s giveaway because it is a less common but hearty and long-living tree. It was introduced into cultivation in 1629, and while its average lifespan is 200 years old, some trees can continue to produce seeds until they reach age 300.
“As we do our best to diversify our trees here in town, it is less common than maples and oaks,” noted Crane. The shagbark hickory is part of the walnut family and its fruit is highly prized by both humans and wildlife, explained Crane. 
The fruit is a nut with a hard outer husk that splits open when ripe. The nut is often referred to as the “black truffle” of the nut world and is considered a delicacy. It was an important food source for Native Americans. Black bears, foxes, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and a number of birds enjoy the nuts every fall, too.
Shagbark flowers emerge in mid-spring, according to Crane. The male, pollen-producing flowers are gathered together in green hanging clusters known as “catkins.” Female flowers, which produce the fruit, form in spikes.

The annual Arbor Day seedling giveaway is a way to help restore the trees that have been cut down in town during the last few years due to disease and overgrowth. 
Last year, eastern redbud seedlings were given out, and the year before, white oak seedlings.