Historic “Great Trees” Returning to NYC

willow cutting
Willow cutting taken in September of 2008 from the parent willow, a giant crack willow (Salix fragilis) in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Photo Courtesy NYC Parks

In January 2008, a small group of intrepid high school students from New York City’s John Bowne High School joined a team of arborists from Bartlett Tree Experts high in the canopy of one of Central Park’s oldest trees. They sought to make sure that this tree, a European Beech planted at the direction of Frederick Law Olmstead during the construction of Central Park, would have a legacy beyond its natural lifespan. They were surrounded that winter morning by organizations united by an ambitious vision: to clone New York City’s aging historic trees and populate the five boroughs with their offspring.

The NYC Historic Great Tree Cloning Project, sponsored by the TREE Fund, Bartlett Tree Experts and the New York City Parks Dept, exemplifies how advances in tree science have changed the landscape for tree preservation. In addition to protecting the existing tree canopy, urban forestry in the 21st century allows for preservation of the genetic material of culturally and environmentally significant trees to ensure that they are not lost forever. Additional support for the project was provided by the Coleman Company, Inc., Marmot Mountain LLC and David Milarch, co-founder of the Champion Tree Project International.

Great Trees Returning to NYC Event May 1, 2014 Identification of People in Photographs Photos courtesy of NYC Parks Department Janet Bornancin, President/CEO of TREE Fund (black coat, riding boots) Stacey Granda, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy's Green Jobs for Youth (white top, green pants) James Kaechele, New York Tree Trust (plaid shirt, mustard pants) Liam Kavanah, First Deputy Commisioner of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (gray suit coat, blue shirt, gold tie, glasses) Julio Macias, Senior Plant Science major at John Bowne High School (gray plaid hoodie) David McMaster, VP at Bartlett Tree Experts (navy suit coat, blue shirt, blue tie with gold print) Frazer Pehmoeller, Bartlett Tree Experts (tan jacket, sage sweater, khakis) Margot Perron, Park Administrator for Van Cortlandt Park (blue and gold jacket) Steve Perry, Assistant Principal at John Bowne HS (royal blue short sleeved shirt)
Great Trees Returning to NYC Event
May 1, 2014
Identification of People in Photographs
Photos courtesy of NYC Parks Department
Janet Bornancin, President/CEO of TREE Fund (black coat, riding boots)
Stacey Granda, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy’s Green Jobs for Youth (white top, green pants)
James Kaechele, New York Tree Trust (plaid shirt, mustard pants)
Liam Kavanah, First Deputy Commisioner of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (gray suit coat, blue shirt, gold tie, glasses)
Julio Macias, Senior Plant Science major at John Bowne High School (gray plaid hoodie)
David McMaster, VP at Bartlett Tree Experts (navy suit coat, blue shirt, blue tie with gold print)
Steve Perry, Assistant Principal at John Bowne HS (royal blue short sleeved shirt)

The Central Park Beech was the first of nine different tree species of historical and environmental significance to be cloned as part of an initiative to preserve and protect historic trees which have shaded New York’s public parks and streets for more than 100 years. Cuttings were taken from 25 trees throughout the city and shipped in Coleman coolers to Schichtels Nursery Oregon, which propagated ten genetically identical clones of each original tree. With the support of the TREE Fund, the students at John Bowne monitored the progress of the clones over time as part of their new agriculture curriculum.

Nearly six years later these clones were four to six feet tall and were ready to come home. On May 1, 2014, at 10:00 a.m., NYC Parks, NY Tree Trust and MillionTreesNYC were joined in Van Cortlandt Park by the TREE Fund, Bartlett Tree Experts, John Bowne High School, and Schichtels Nursery Oregon to plant clones from two of the original “mother” trees – American (aka white) ash (Fraxinus americana) and crack willow (Salix fragilis).

The parent ash to the far right, with the young clone planted to the left. Photo Courtesy NYC Parks
The massive parent white ash (Fraxinus americana) to the far right, with the young clone planted to the left (where you see people). Photo Courtesy NYC Parks

The “mother” American ash is located at the southeast corner of the parade grounds (adjacent to the event location) and has a diameter of 54″ and a height of 85′. It is one of few exceptionally large ash trees in the Bronx. As with all ash within New York City, the ash trees propagated from that tree will be monitored for signs of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and will receive appropriate management to protect them from the threat of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Additionally, some of the ash progeny will remain in Oregon, insulated from the threat of EAB, thus ensuring that the genes of NYC’s historic ash tree are preserved.

The enormous crack willow resides at the northeast end of Van Cortlandt Park has reached a height of 110 feet. It has two main leaders, one with a 37 inch diameter and one with a 54 inch diameter.

MCP_4611 Great Tree Clone Planting 5 1 14 mp_resize
The cloned white ash with the parent tree behind. Left is Janet Bornancin, President/CEO from TREE Fund and Bartlett Tree’s Frazer Pehmoeller, a rider for Tour des Trees. Photo Courtesy NYC Parks

These are the first of many trees that will be planted throughout New York City as part of the MillionTreesNYC campaign. They will serve as preservation ambassadors, representing the need to protect what could so easily be lost to development or pest and disease. NY Tree Trust will manage the care of this next generation, working to ensure that the progeny of New York City’s Great Trees have every chance to grow to greatness themselves.

Here is a list of the trees of historic significance that have been or will be cloned. Tree Trust Development Manager James Kaechele says, “By summer’s end we will have an interactive map with all of the Great Trees listed with a bit of background on each.”

M-CP = Central Park

BK-PP = Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

BX = Bronx

Q = Queens

M = Manhattan

SI = Staten Island

Boro       Common Name      Latin Name          Location

1 M-CP London Plane Platanus x acerifolia 97th St Transverse

2 M-CP Horse Chestnut Aesculus sp. By the Pool (nr 100th Entrance on west side)

3 M-CP Cut Leaf Beech Fagus sylvatica ‘Cut Leaf’ Cherry Hill

8 M-CP European Beech Fagus sylvatica Great Lawn

9 M-CP Crab apple Malus sp. Conservatory Gardens

13 BK-PP London Plane Platanus x acerifolia Concert Grove

15 BK-PP European Hornbeam Carpinus betulus Near boathouse

17 BX London Plane Platanus x acerifolia Van Cortlandt Park, Parade Grounds

18 BX American Ash Fraxinus americana Van Cortlandt Park, Parade Grounds

23 BX Crack Willow Salix fragilis Van Cortlandt Park

26 Q Persian Parrotia Parrotia persica Kissena Park

28 Q Manchurian Linden Tilia mandshurica Kissena Park

30 Q Beech ‘Quercifolia’ Fagus sylvatica ‘Quercifolia’ Kissena Park

31 Q European Beech Fagus sylvatica Weeping Beech Park

32 Q Katsura trees Cercidiphyllum japonicum Kissena Park

34 M English Elm Ulmus carpinifolia Stuyvesant Square West

35 M English Elm Ulmus carpinifolia Washington Square

39 SI Horse Chestnut Aesculus sp. Tappan Park

47 Q Parson’s Fullmoon Maple Acer japonica var Parsonii Kissena Park

48 Q Japanese maple Acer japonica Kissena Park


About TREE Fund

The TREE Fund is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge in urban forestry and arboriculture (the science of caring for trees in a landscape). Since 2002 the TREE Fund has distributed nearly $2.4 million in research grants, scholarships and funding for environmental education to advance the science, practice and safety of tree care and engage the next generation of tree stewards.

With support from individual and corporate donors and sponsors, TREE Fund research has contributed to:

  • Better understanding of air pollution reduction and carbon sequestration by trees
  • Quantification of the benefits trees provide to urban settings
  • Improved survival rates for trees in difficult sites
  • Improved strategies for vegetation management by utilities
  • More effective disease and pest management strategies for urban trees

For more information, visit www.treefund.org.

—blog post adapted from a press release by Mary DiCarlo, marydicarlo@treefund.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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