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Trees of New York City facts for kids

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The land comprising New York City holds approximately 5.2 million trees. As of 2020, there are 168 different tree species growing in New York City. The New York City government, along side an assortment of environmental organizations, actively work to plant and maintain the trees. As of 2020, New York City held 44,509 acres of urban tree canopy with 24% of its land covered in trees.

History of trees in New York City

Trees have grown continuously on the mainland and islands that now comprise New York City since the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Trees have inhabited the lands in or around what is now New York City for over 300 million years, far before the existence of humanity. The first human settlement in the NYC area is dated as early as 9,000 years ago, this marked the beginning of human's permanently altering the old-growth forest ecosystem. Humanity's impact of the trees in New York City greatly accelerated with European colonization of the Americas as the new settlers brought with them advanced metals tools and tree processing technologies paired with a high appetite towards lumber that they would both sell and use locally in the Thirteen Colonies, as well as send back to the Old World. While the Native American population lived off and with the Northeast's forest ecosystem relatively symbiotically, the new European colonists, with their higher population density, sedentary housing needs, and agriculture techniques, diminished the need to harvest wild fruits from trees. The New World found itself rapidly deforested, New York City included.

Lenape use of trees

The Lenape peoples who inhabited the greater NYC area directly prior to European colonization relied on trees for food, shelter, tool materials, fuel, and medicine. The typical Lenape house, called a longhouse, relied on the bending of the trunks taken from small trees to create a series of arches to serve as the frame. The Lenape used the Zanthoxylum tree as medicine for toothaches because chewing on the leaves or bark creates a tingling, or numbing effect in the mouth.

Governors Island

The Lenape called Governors Island: “Pagganck,” which means “nut island,” named after the areas abundance of hickory nut trees.

Cherry Street

At the corner of Cherry Street and Franklin Square, the Lenape peoples planted and maintained a vast cherry orchard. When the Dutch took control of the orchard, they created “Cherry Street” amidst the trees. George Washington later lived at 1 Cherry Street, the location being notable as the nation’s first presidential residence. Remnants of the orchard survived into the 1870s, when the last of the trees and Washington’s home at 1 Cherry Street, were razed to build the Brooklyn Bridge.

American use of trees

Stuyvesant Pear Tree

In 1674, Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch colonial governor, planted a pear tree on his farm. It stood here for two hundred years, with New York City growing around it. The 1811 street grid covered over the farm but spared the Stuyvesant Pear Tree. The tree remained there until February 1867, weakened by a massive winter storm and done in by a wagon collision.

A plaque marking the Stuyvesant tree’s spot remains at the corner of 13th Street and Third Avenue. In this neighborhood, pear trees are still planted to commenmorate the original pear tree planted by Stuyvesant. A Stuyvesant descendant gifted a cross-section of the original trunk to the New-York Historical Society.

Hangman’s Elm

The Hangman’s Elm, is an Elm tree in Washington Square Park. In 1989, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation determined that this English Elm was 310 years old. As a result, many believe that it is the oldest known tree in Manhattan.

The earliest references to the elm as a "hanging tree" date from the late 19th century, long after the supposed hangings were said to have taken place. Recent extensive research into the park's history by more than one historian has shown that the tree was on a private farm until the land was bought by the city and added to Washington Square in 1827. No public records exist of hangings from this tree.

The only recorded execution in this area was of Rose Butler, in 1820, for arson. She was hanged from a gallows in the city's potter's field, on the eastern side of Minetta Creek, about 500 feet (150 meters) from the elm; at that time, Minetta Creek ran in a shallow ravine between the potter's field and the farm where the elm stood. The hanging attracted 10,000 spectators.

New York City urban street trees

New York City runs a tree planting efforts through the Parks Department. As of 2020, the city has over 2.5 million trees.

The tallest and oldest tree in New York City is the Queens Giant, a Tulip Poplar growing in Queens.

As of 2020, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is the steward of most of the trees within New York City. The NYC Department of Parks observes Earth Day and Arbor Day.

List of trees growing in New York City

This list includes street trees of New York City; as well as, trees planted in New York City parks and public spaces:

Scientific name Common name Photo Size Native Species Approved street tree Planted in NYC streets Edible fruit Disease risk Invasive species Notable
Acer platanoides Norway maple Klon Maple.jpg Large Non-Native Yes Yes No No
Acer rubrum Red maple 2014-10-30 11 09 40 Red Maple during autumn on Lower Ferry Road in Ewing, New Jersey.JPG Large Native Yes
Acer saccharinum Silver maple Silber-Ahorn (Acer saccharinum).jpg Large Native Yes
Aesculus hippocastanum Horse-chestnut Horse-chestnut 800.jpg Large Non-Native Yes
Aesculus octandra Common buckeye Kollane hobukastan mai 2014 117.jpg Large Native Yes
Ailanthus altissima Tree of heaven 20180921Ailanthus altissima.jpg Large Non-Native No Yes No Yes No
Alnus glutinosa European alder Alnus glutinosa .jpg Large Non-Native Yes
Amelanchier canadensis Serviceberry Amelanchier canadensis (without leaves), Mount Auburn Cemetery.JPG Small Native Yes
Betula nigra Black birch Nationaal Park Weerribben-Wieden. Gemarkeerd voetpad 01.JPG Large Native Yes
Carpinus betulus European hornbeam Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata' Dublin P1310089.jpg Large Non-Native Yes
Carpinus caroliniana American hornbeam A30-1-Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam).JPG Medium Native Yes
Carya laciniosa Shellback hickory Carya laciniosa NRCS-004.jpg Large Native
Catalpa speciosa Northern catalpa Catalpa speciosa 20060624.jpg Medium Non-Native
Cedrus Cedar Moroccan Atlantic cedar.jpg Large Non-Native
Celtis occidentalis Common hackberry Celtis occidentalis 20090606.jpg Medium Native
Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsura Cercidiphyllum japonicum 12zz.jpg Medium Non-Native
Cercis canadensis Eastern redbud RedbudOhio02.jpg Medium Non-Native
Chionanthus virginicus White fringetree Chionanthus virginicus - Tower Hill Botanic Garden.JPG Medium Non-Native
Cladrastis kentukea Kentucky yellowwood CladrastisKentukea.jpg Medium Non-Native
Cornus mas Cornelian cherry 20161016Cornus mas4.jpg Small Non-Native Yes
Corylus colurna Turkish hazel Corylus colurna0.jpg Tall Non-Native
Crataegus Hawthorn Elorri zuria Bergaran.jpg Medium Native
Crataegus spathulata Littlehip hawthorn Crataegus spathulata 3zz.jpg
Diospyros virginiana American persimmon Diospyros virginia (Ebenaceae) (tree).JPG
Eucommia ulmoides Eucommia ulmoides Eucommia ulmoides4.jpg No
Fagus sylvatica European beech 1214 Rotbuche Ga.JPG
Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula' Weeping beech Flushing Queens Jan 2020 13.jpg Large Non-Native No No No No Yes
Ginkgo biloba Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba PAN 6.JPG
Gleditsia triacanthos inermis Honey locust Gleditsia triacanthos 20050730 739.jpg
Gymnocladus dioicus Kentucky coffeetree Gymnocladus dioicus.JPG
Halesia Silverbell
Hamamelis Witch-hazel Shrubby (8064478686).jpg
Ilex Holly Arbol Acebo (11984035646).jpg
Juglans Walnut trees Juglans major Morton.jpg
Juniperus Juniper 2014-05-13 08 32 55 Eastern Red Cedar at South Riding Golf Club in South Riding, Virginia.JPG
Koelreuteria paniculata Goldenrain tree Koelreuteria habitus.jpg Non-Native
Laburnum Golden chain Laburnum anagyroides flowering.jpg
Larix laricina American larch
Liquidambar styraciflua Sweetgum 2014-11-02 13 06 29 Sweet Gum during autumn along Lower Ferry Road in Ewing, New Jersey.JPG
Liriodendron tulipifera Tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera (arbre) - Laeken.JPG
Maackia amurensis Amur maackia Maackia amurensis.jpg
Maclura pomifera Maclura pomifera Maclura pomifera au parc de l'épinette à Libourne.jpg
Magnolia grandiflora Laurel magnolia Magnolia Tree Center Bk jeh.JPG Large Non-Native Not approved No No No Yes
Malus spectabilis Chinese flowering apple Malus spectabilis - Riversii - River's crabaple.JPG Non-Native
Metasequoia glyptostroboides Dawn redwood Non-Native
Morus Mulberry
Nyssa sylvatica Black gum 2014-11-02 12 47 05 Black Tupelo during autumn at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, New Jersey.JPG
Ostrya virginiana American hophornbeam
Oxydendrum Sorrel tree
Phellodendron amurense Amur cork tree
Picea pungens Blue spruce Picea pungens tree.jpg
Pinus resinosa Red pine
Pinus strobus White pine Pinus strobus trees.jpg
Pinus sylvestris Scots pine
Platanus × acerifolia London planetree Non-Native
Populus Poplar
Prunus 'Kanzan' Cherry Kanzan
Prunus × incam Okamé cherry
Prunus × yedoensis Yoshino cherry
Prunus cerasifera Cherry plum 20130909Mirabelle Hockenheim.jpg
Prunus padus Cherry
Prunus sargentii Cherry
Prunus virginiana 'Schubert' Cherry
Pseudotsuga menziesii ssp. glauca Douglas Fir Non-Native
Pyrus calleryana Callery pear 2014-11-02 14 11 35 Bradford Pear during autumn along Hunters Ridge Drive in Hopewell Township, New Jersey.jpg
Quercus acutissima Sawtooth oak
Quercus alba White oak
Quercus bicolor Swamp white oak
Quercus coccinea Scarlet oak 2014-11-02 14 15 16 Scarlet Oak foliage during autumn on Hunters Ridge Drive in Hopewell Township, New Jersey.jpg
Quercus dentata Japanese emperor oak Non-Native
Quercus fastigiata English oak
Quercus frainetto Hungarian oak
Quercus imbricaria Shingle oak Quercus imbricariaZZ.jpg
Quercus macrocarpa Bur oak Quercus macrocarpa - University of Kentucky Arboretum - DSC09333.JPG
Quercus montana Chestnut oak
Quercus muehlenbergii Chinkapin oak
Quercus palustris Pin oak
Quercus phellos Willow oak
Quercus robur Common oak Baginton oak tree july06.JPG Non-Native
Quercus rubra Northern red oak Native
Quercus shumardii Shumard oak Non-Native
Quercus texana Nuttall's oak Non-Native
Quercus velutina Eastern black oak Native
Robinia Locusts
Salix Willow
Sassafras albidum Sassafras Native
Sorbus aucuparia Rowan tree Rowan tree 20081002b.jpg Non-Native No
Styphnolobium japonicum Japanese pagoda tree Non-Native
Styrax japonicus Japanese snowbell Styrax japonicus JPG1b.jpg Non-Native
Syringa reticulata Japanese tree lilac Syringa reticulata USDA.jpg Non-Native
Syringa reticulata subsp. pekinensis Chinese tree lilac Non-Native
Taxodium distichum Bald cypress Buildings in Washington, D.C. 02137.JPG Non-Native
Thuja occidentalis Northern white-cedar Thuja occidentalis 001.JPG Native
Tilia americana American linden Tilia americana, Arnold Arboretum - IMG 5911.JPG Native
Tilia cordata Littleleaf linden 20140605Tilia cordata7.jpg Non-Native
Tilia tomentosa Silver linden Tilia tomentosa 1JPG.jpg Non-Native
Tsuga canadensis Eastern hemlock 2019-03-19 11 30 23 Eastern Hemlock on Meridan Avenue in Ewing Township, Mercer County, New Jersey.jpg Native
Ulmus americana American elm American Elm Tree, Old South Street, Northampton, MA - October 2019.jpg Large Native
Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii' Camperdown elm Camperdown Elm Prospect Park Brooklyn.jpg Medium Non-Native No No No No Yes
Ulmus parvifolia Chinese elm RN Ulmus parvifolia (Hilversum).JPG Non-Native
Ulmus minor English elm 070129-SWR009.jpg Large Non-Native No No No No Yes
Zelkova serrata Japanese zelkova Mishima-no-Ookeyaki024.jpg Non-Native
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