When I think of New York City, I think of towering skyscrapers, taxi cabs, and traffic, not greenery or plant life. But a new map — Great Trees of New York (Blue Crow Media, 2021) by Allison C. Meier (a former Hyperallergic staff writer) — has you looking at the city a little more closely.
Meier’s map guides locals and visitors alike to 50 of the city’s oldest, rarest, most historic, and notable trees, offering a new view of New York’s uniquely diverse urban forest. On the back of the map marking their locations, each of the featured trees is illustrated with a photograph by Colin Montgomery and a blurb by the author about the tree’s history, surroundings, appearance, and other information, such as the natural disasters or diseases that it has survived.
Part botanical history, part social history, Meier’s map provides a welcome alternative route through New York’s urban jungle and inspires us to consider trees’ contributions to daily life and local biodiversity. “New York is not often thought of as a city of great trees,” Meier writes, but “amidst the density and concrete there are incredible examples throughout the five boroughs.”
Take, for example, the Camperdown elm in Prospect Park planted in 1872. Called “Brooklyn’s crowning curio” by the poet Marianne Moore — who led conservation efforts to protect the tree in the 1960s — the tree is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. Other trees on the map have witnessed important episodes in local history. The Black tupelo that Meier highlights has been growing in Central Park since its founding in 1858, and “The Dinosaur” — an English elm and Manhattan’s largest street tree on the corner of 163rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue — is rumored to have sheltered George Washington in 1776 as the British-occupied city burned.
New Yorkers are known for their hardiness and resilience, and so are their trees. The “Survivor Tree,” a Callery pear that was pulled from the rubble of Ground Zero in 2001, now stands at the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. The tree is a symbol of strength, healing — and yes, greenery — in the middle of the big city.
Great Trees of New York Map, published by Blue Crow Media, is available online at Bookshop.