Thursday, September 6, 2007

Street Trees in New York City

(The larger tree with the fluted growth habit is a Japanese zelkova, or Zelkova serrata. I love these street trees for their fall color that can range from bronze to russet to rich maroon.)

Would you happen to know what most of the trees are on the streets of New York? Someone told me that they were mostly Gingkos but I don't see a lot of them around.

That is a pretty involved question but I will do my best to give you as much information as I can. Luckily for both of us I know a number of individuals who work for the Department of Parks & Recreation here in the city and I have been involved in many discussions and workshops about the present-state and future of street trees here in New York City. Most of the information I am about to share was provided to me by Parks & Recreation and if you would like to visit their website, I have created a link here.

The City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation performed a city-wide street tree census from 2005-2006. For the census they defined a street tree as any tree growing within the public-right-of-way, or within 15 feet of the curb. With the help of over a thousand volunteers, Parks & Recreation determined that there were a grand total of more than 592,000 street trees growing in New York City. This census showed a 19% increase in street trees since the previous census performed from 1995-1996.

According to a summary put out by Parks & Recreation, census-takers identified a remarkable 168 different species of street trees. Furthermore, it was found that 74% of the overall population of street trees was comprised of only ten specific species. Here is a list of the top ten street trees in New York City for 2005-2006:

London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia) 15.3%
Norway maple (Acer platanoides) 14.1%
callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) 10.9%
honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) 8.9%
pin oak (Quercus palustris) 7.5%
littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata) 4.7%
green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) 3.5%
red maple (Acer rubrum) 3.5%
silver maple (Acer saccharinum) 3.2%
ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) 2.8%

As you can see, ginkgos are low on the list but still one of the most common street trees in New York City. It is also important to keep in mind that this information includes all five boroughs and may not be an exact representation of your neighborhood. In some neighborhoods we inevitably find higher populations of certain trees compared to others. For example, in my neighborhood in Queens I know we have mostly lindens, yet when I visit my brother down in Brooklyn I typically see only honeylocusts.

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