The ability to accurately predict the load-bearing capacity of tree forks would improve tree surveying and tree surgery techniques and assist with the biomechanical modelling of a tree’s structure. In this study, the bending strength of forks of hazel (Corylus avellana L.) was investigated by assessing the mechanical contributions from three component parts of each fork. Intact forks and ones in which either central or peripheral xylem lying under the branch bark ridge at the apex of the forks had been removed were subjected to tensile tests. The bending strength of these forks was compared with that of the arising branches by carrying out a three-point bending test on the smaller arising branches of the intact specimens. All forks failed in tension, splitting between the arising branches. By removing the centrally placed xylem, constituting approximately a fifth of the width of the fracture surface, the forks’ bending strength was reduced by around 32 %, while removing the outer four-fifths reduced the forks’ bending strength by 49 %. Intact forks had around 74 % of the maximum bending strength of the smaller arising branch. It is concluded that the tensile strength of the centrally placed xylem at the apex of a tree fork is a critical strengthening component. This helps to explain the weakness of forks with included bark, which lack this component. This study concludes that tree forks should not by default be considered flaws in a tree’s structure.