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For some reason, I’m drawn to Thornless Honey Locusts; my friend, Alexis — who sent me down this path — has taken to writing about the Callery Pear; and I’ve realized that Restaurant Row has an amazing Ginkgo!

These are not imaginative names for cocktails — they are the names of trees on the sidewalks of our Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Thank you to textile and wallpaper designer Alexis Audette for pointing us in the direction of a most extraordinary resource: a map of New York City street trees!

NYC Parks Department has created a database showing where every single tree on NYC streets is planted. If you type in your address, you can see what’s growing on your block. On the map, trees are represented by circles. The size of the circle represents the diameter of the tree, and the color of the circle reflects its species.

Alexis took just one of the species she found on the map (and outside her apartment) and traced its history. She was also inspired by the book The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David George Haskell. “Haskell describes the songs of trees and the stories they tell. But in Haskell’s view, trees are less soloists than part of life’s choir, a chorale in which all living things lift their voices together,” said Alexis.

Alexis focused in on the Callery Pear — to which Haskell devotes a whole chapter. “The tree was named after Joseph-Marie Callery, a plant collecting Frenchman who sent seedlings of the tree from China to the West in the mid-1800s. The Callery Pear makes a profound contribution to New York City in several critical ways. First, the tree’s leaves and bark act as a stormwater buffer. In addition, trees like the Callery Pear absorb particulate pollution, acting as giant air filters. On an annual basis, New York City’s trees remove more than 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide alone from the air. Further, as they provide shade and release water into the air through their leaves, trees such as the Callery Pear lower the air temperature. Depending on the size of the tree canopy, certain city neighborhoods can be ten degrees cooler than others. Last but not least, simply by their presence, the Callery Pear and its arboreal neighbors reduce onlookers’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol and instill a sense of calm,” said Alexis.

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David George Haskell. Shown with Alexis’s nature-inspired wallpaper.

The trees were first mapped in 2015 by volunteers for a project called TreesCount. The street tree census is now updated every day by the Park’s Forestry team. Walking a total of 11,093 miles, surveyors in 2015 mapped 666,134 street trees on 131,488 blocks in New York City.

Of the five boroughs, Queens had the most trees (246,754) — Manhattan coming in fifth with just 65,381 trees. The good news is that the overall number of trees has increased to 689,227 (up 3.4% on the 2015 figures).

If all those numbers are messing with your mind, here are some fun facts from NYC Parks. Planted every 20 feet in a row (the minimum spacing for New York City street trees), the live trees would stretch 2,470 miles – roughly the distance from midtown Manhattan’s urban canyons to Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Or looking at it another way, growing in an open landscape, New York City’s street trees would fill approximately 2,000 acres, or an area 2½ times the size of Central Park.

In Hell’s Kitchen, there are 1,860 trees on our streets with 54 different species. My favorite, the Thornless Honey Locust, is the most common, making up 35% of the trees growing in the neighborhood!

A Ginkgo tree towers above the north side of Restaurant Row.

NYC Parks Department says that the trees give real economic and ecological benefits for Hell’s Kitchen. Our neighborhood trees intercept 2,043,331 gallons of stormwater each year and save the area $190,055 of energy. Taking into account air pollutant removal and carbon dioxide reduction, the total annual benefits are nearly $230k.

Meanwhile, if you are stepping out in the neighborhood, keep an eye open for a Littleleaf Linden, Peking Tree Lilac, Japanese Zelkova, American Basswood… and many more…

You can locate and name your favorite New York Street Trees here — tree-map.nycgovparks.org

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1 Comment

  1. We have a rebellious ginko tree on 44th outside Mamma Mia. Female ginkgo are now banned from being planted as street trees since the fruit they drop can have an unpleasant smell. Every year our lady ginko throws down her fruit with Hell’s Kitchen defiance. The nuts, once the stinky pulp is removed, are treasured particularly by the Chinese people. I once had a very pleasant encounter with a young Chinese lady as I was cleaning out the ginko tree pit. She began gathering the nuts, and I began helping her, and she showed me how to clean off the pulp, leaving just the good nut. We didn’t speak each other’s language, but we nonetheless had a lovely time together gathering the fruit from our rebellious ginko!

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