Hackberry tree

By Jason Lubar, Associate Director of Urban Forestry Morris Arboretum


I am always sad when I have to condemn a significant and beloved tree to death. Such is the case with the large hackberry tree on Stenton Avenue whose canopy is shaped like an “O” or donut because of years of careful pruning around the electric wires that penetrate through its canopy.  This tree is just west of Northwestern Avenue, right across from Bloomfield Farm. Today, this tree, known by the many drivers who commute along Stenton Avenue, is being removed.

We noticed that the tree, adjacent to Erdenheim Farm, had significant structural issues, so I recommended that an in-depth inspection be carried out so an informed judgement could be made about the tree.   Andrew Hawkes, Morris Arboretum’s arborist, Trish Kemper, our urban forestry technician, and I visited and tree and discovered it  to be hollow with fairly large cavity openings on four sides of the trunk. The extent of the decay was too great, and the risk from the whole tree failing and landing on Stenton Avenue was unacceptable, so I condemned the tree to be removed.

photo of tree removal

Lizzie from Erdenheim Farm bemoans the loss of the “Cheerio Tree” and remembers it from her childhood:

“I grew up in Chestnut Hill and began riding horses when I was seven years old. There was a handful of kids who rode at the same barn about an hour away. Our moms would take turns carpooling. Up to seven kids in a car, to and from, was crazy and memorable, and gave us lots of time for making up games. One of those games was Cheerio Tree.  The rules were simple: when the Cheerio tree came into sight you yell "CHEERIO TREE!". The first to say it won. Sometimes we would add up the score over a period of time, but usually it was just a win for the day.

It is interesting that two former Morris Arboretum Urban Forestry interns were involved with removing this hazardous, but beloved tree, one who works at PECO’s Vegetation Management Department, and the other working for Davey Tree, who coordinated the removal.