Guest Contributor: Julie Heffernan, Communications Coordinator, Environment and Planning, NYC Parks

New York City is known for great food, impressive art and towering architecture, among many other things, but how many people think about the Great Trees of New York—those that stand out as unique symbols of our diverse, expansive urban forest? For a city with a rich cultural history, our trees have stood watch and become the markers for significant moments in time. Not only have the city’s trees grown to impressive sizes, they also provide several ecological benefits, including removing air pollution, capturing stormwater, and saving energy by cooling their respective neighborhoods.

Sunset Park:Photo Ralph Emrick

Along with its millions of people, New York City is home to millions of trees, but only a few can claim to be the “Great Trees of New York City.” Back in 1985, NYC Parks embarked on the first Great Tree Search of New York City, inviting citizens across the five boroughs to nominate trees of unusual size, interesting or rare species, unusual form, and/or historical significance. The selected trees became heritage trees to be celebrated and preserved for generations. As time passed, the Great Trees aged, and now only 65 of the original 120 trees remain. The ecological benefits of the remaining 65 mature heritage trees is valued at over $24 million, which is one of the many reasons it’s time to add more Great Trees to the list!

Since the original search, new trees have grown to impressive sizes, and new events have occurred that are worthy of commemoration. NYC Parks has launched a new Great Tree Search with the goal of identifying the most significant trees in every neighborhood. Through a public process, New Yorkers in every community are now invited to nominate exceptional trees, as defined by their historic, botanical, and cultural significance, with the goal of increasing both the number of trees and the diversity of people telling these stories. The trees designated as “Great Trees” will be celebrated, and their stories preserved for generations to come.

To nominate a Great Tree in your neighborhood visit or use the NYC Tree Map to find an nominate your potential Great Tree at

Crocheron Park Ginko:Photo Adrian Sas:NYC Parks

This Crocheron Park gingko stood witness to history when Tammany Hall “boss” Tweed, hid at the Crocheron family’s house after escaping from jail. It was designated a Great Tree in 1985.

Van Cortlandt Park White Ash:Photo NYC Parks

Runners in Van Cortlandt Park will recognize this mighty white ash. Designated a Great Tree in 1985 for its above-average size, it continues to stand tall and strong.

American Elm:NYC Parks

This American Elm is a survivor! Having escaped the scourge of Elm Disease, it’s grown to nearly 80 feet and was designated a Great Tree in 1985.


Isham Park Ginkgo:PhotoAdrian Sas:NYC Parks

With a canopy that spreads almost as wide as this tree stands tall, you can’t miss this imposing figure in Isham Park! This stunning gingko was designated a Great Tree in 1985.