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by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to a new tree. He showed me a painting that looked a bit like this photo below, and told me it was a wingnut.

The beautiful wingnut tree aka Pterocarya

The beautiful wingnut tree aka Pterocarya

I must have looked at him like he was crazy. Indeed that seemed like a crazy name for a tree. Perhaps because I work at a botanical garden (and presumably that gave me some authority) he backed off — saying that perhaps he was the wingnut…maybe it wasn’t called that at all.
But, after doing a bit of research, I found that he was right — there is a tree called a wingnut or Pterocarya — and we have one here at the Garden.  You can’t see it in this first photo, and you couldn’t see it in his painting either, but the tree has whimsical foot-long strings of “wingnut” shaped seed pods.  As if Mother Nature took 50-80 of the more familiar “helicopter” seed pods, and strung them together atop one another.

Wingnut seedpods

Wingnut seedpods

The magical wingnut tree

The magical wingnut tree

Wingnuts are beautiful, fast-growing shade trees, with an open canopy. They make wonderful additions to a large back yard. In autumn, the leaves green leaves turn bright yellow, but the fairyland-like seedpods remain.

Here at the Garden, our wingnut resides in the Asian Valley. It is a lovely, mature tree and well worth the trip just to see it.  To find it, walk down the main path to the Rose Garden,  make a right and go through the Moon Gate. Just before you get to the Robins Tea House you’ll notice it on the right side, a few feet off the path.  I love to walk by and look at its hair-like whimsical tendrils.  It makes me think back to my friend and his painting.  The trunk and form of the tree are beautiful by themselves. But what I love even more is the sturdy form of the tree with its dark green oblong leaves contrasting against the lime green strands of wingnuts.

In the painting, the wingnuts are missing, but implied.  If you are familiar with the quirky wingnut tree though, it may conjure up images of the wingnut in all its glory with strands of  light green seedpods trailing down from above as you revel in its summer shade.

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