October 6, 2010

New York City Street Trees

I am back in Vermont from New York City, happy to see that there is still a lot of color in the trees, surprised that we haven't yet had a frost. I saw a few interesting art shows while there and will report on them in coming days; meanwhile, I'd like to talk about the trees growing along the busy streets of New York.

I was on my way to visit a friend in lower Manhattan when I noticed the knobby, light colored protuberances on a tree's roots, held in by the granite blocks of the sidewalk. The solid and linear circles lit up the brown textured bark and made an amusing, almost painterly pattern, which contrasted with the green and yellow marks of fallen leaves. There is so much character expressed in these bumpy roots (which I believe are those of a honey locust tree). I feel admiration for the endurance of the trees that grow here despite pollution, arising from a small square of earth surrounded by pavement. I began to notice the varied boundaries of street trees, hemmed in by concrete, brick or stone; perhaps it'll be a future photographic project.

Below are some seeds from the tree alongside the one above, which I thought was the same species, but this one has festive dangling green berries. I wonder if they are immature versions of the long seed pod that honey locusts produce. Whatever tree this is, the berries add a decorative splash to the gray city sidewalk.


  1. Love the berries! We have three slightly different locusts but don't think I have seen anything like that on them — just the brown pods. Those bumps are amazing, as are all street trees that manage to survive. Did you know one of the recommended varieties is Ginkgo?

  2. Altoon, I was in New York a week ago, and it was wonderful to walk across Central Park and see the great variety of trees planted there, as well as the stalwarts that line the streets of the Upper West Side (my home away from home). They have a hard life. I think I read that the average life span of a city street tree is 8 years. And I don't know what half of them are! They are from all over the world, the toughest species. Those honey locusts have had their really scary thorns bred out of them so they can be planted along the streets.

  3. your second photo looks linguistic... or like cheerios!

  4. Linda, hmm, so no ideas about the berries. According to a website I found (http://sustainablecitiescollective.com/localecology/8418/what-are-10-most-common-street-trees-new-york-city) the gingko is the 10th most common NYC street tree. Number 1 is the London Planetree.

    Susan, there was a tree in front of my parent's house in Brooklyn that lasted for many years, at least 25. Now there's another tree, which has the compound leaves similar to locust, which has been there for 8 or 10. I guess Brooklyn is easier on trees than Manhattan.

    rappel, I was so struck by the image of those circles; cheerios floating in chocolate syrup sounds good!

  5. Dear Tunie,

    Your sisters told me about your blog last week and I was interested in what you are doing.I love to hear about your garden, and the way you describe your wanderings and walks make me want to be there. Your photographs are paintings in themselves - I especially loved the lichens. I'm looking forward to more.... Irene

  6. hi Irene, it's great to see you here. I'm so glad you enjoy the blog.

  7. I think those pods are from a Japanese Pagoda Tree.

  8. Hello Altoon

    The pods belong to a tree of the species Sophora japonica, usually called the Japanese Scholar Tree.

    As a street tree this species usually flowers every other year, although when given good ground it will flower (and hence fruit) every year. the flowers are billowy clouds of white in late August into September and are followed by the fruit which are semi tranaslucent greenish. the fruit is retained on the tree through the winter. It's rather easy to start from seed, but may take 5 to 10 year before it starts flowering.