The second part of a story about Jean Zimmerman’s experience assessing trees in the Bronx for New York City’s Great Tree Search 2023.

On another afternoon, back in the city proper we locate a venerable black tupelo.

“At the edge of the forested land on Mosholu Parkway North, facing the apartment buildings.” Sounds mysterious, and I’m afraid we will not find it, especially as the gloaming comes on. We cadge a parking space and I walk directly to the tree as by a homing device.

This particular tree is an important gathering space for some in the community. Volunteers (and those who occasionally gather under the tree) have kept the invasive vines from touching the tree and have protected.” I think of a couple of lines by poet Jane Hirshfield: “I would like not minding, whatever travels my heart. To follow it all the way into leaf-form, bark-furl, root-touch, and then keep walking, unimaginably further.”

We discover a cottonwood just off Van Cortland Park South in an old schoolyard. It towers over the neighborhood. Once, apparently, during the Revolutionary War, this tree was used for hanging traitors.

I check the spreadsheet. “Cottonwood trees typically grow in riparian areas, which at first seems odd, given its current location, but makes sense once you realize that the Tibbets Brook runs underneath.” I’ve heard that Tibbetts Brook is about to be daylighted, and I wonder what will happen to the cottonwood when that happens. Will they retain it and will it continue to provide shade and beauty of local residents?

Moshulu Parkway and Gun Hill Road are sites for some other old-old trees that also date back to the Revolution. We visit “the oldest sassafras tree in the Bronx, an amazing holdover from when the land was converted from farm to parkland.”

It is said to be larger than the state champion in Green-Wood Cemetery. And that’s saying something. “However, it’s true age will never be known because it is mostly hollow.”

No matter, it is magnificent. Nearby, a white oak stands tall above a wall on Gun Hill Road.

Beneath the tree’s enormous canopy runs the Old Aqueduct Trail, another landmark, an engineering marvel from from the time when clean water was piped in from the Croton Reservoir in northern Westchester County. “Assuming was planted along Gun Hill as historical marker.” Makes total sense.

All Gil can say for hours afterward is: That white oak. That white oak was amazing. The wonders of this city’s urban forest are manifold. I’m starting to dream about Bronx trees. We’ve been going out to find them every day.

Now we venture to Ewen Park. I’ve never heard of the place, but I know there is a cherry tree here “south of the dog run.” All around you can see evidence of the bedrock that once existed all around New York before it got blasted away, leveled for development.

Tramping all over and unable to find it, we ask someone walking her dog to direct us.

Poseidon himself, a proud Cane Corso, would not be caught dead in a dog run. But Poseidon’s helpful person directs us down the hill and up the “unmarked trail” to the spot. She has me at “unmarked trail,” my favorite kind of path. We locate the huge old cherry.

“This is one of the biggest, oldest trees in the park,” reads the nomination. “It provides habitat and food for our migratory and resident birds.” Its once delicate lenticels have gone crusty.

It also nestles a young’un in its crook.

On the way out of the park, I find a microforest of sweetgums. What’s not to love about a sweetgum?

Their prickly seedballs are a marvel of the season.

Two conjoined trunks seemed to be pouring their hearts out.

I admire a small maple, sporting the usual colorful frou frou of the season. Watch me turn colors! I’m a maple! Sure, m’am, but you clearly haven’t met the other contenders, the sassafras or the black tupelo.

Everywhere I go I stumble upon fantastic trees that were not nominated as Great Trees. Yes, the pin oak in Crotona is spectacular. The zelkovas on Webster, definitely worth noting. But what about this particular sweetgum?

Ewen Park, which I’d never before heard of, dates back to when Frederick Van Cortlandt owned the land. It has a long stone staircase that serves as a conduit between the neighborhoods of Kingsbridge and Riverdale. At the base of the steps I find a marker that establishes the place’s bona fides. It states the number of stairs. In Latin.

History is everywhere. You can read the past  in the trunks and branches, leaves and fruits of the trees in the Bronx. Some of them Great Trees. But also, trees that might not necessarily be identified as such. Not necessarily winners, but trees that are nonetheless special.

And that is pretty great.