Currently Reading: Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City

New York is one of the greatest cities of the world. It is also an urban forest with more than 5 million trees. These trees are not only in our parks. Nearly 600,000 trees line our streets, offering us shade, cooling our neighborhoods, diverting rain water, and cleaning our air. But if you haven’t paid much attention to your street trees, you’re not alone. The Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City (public library) is a good place to start.

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The naturalist Leslie Day and illustrator Trudy Smoke have created a wonderful introduction to the urban forest outside your window. Their Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City identifies the fifty most common tree species that exist in New York City, maps some of the city’s great trees, and provides steps for caring for and protecting street trees.

Exploring Leafy Neighborhoods and Meeting “Tree People”

The guide begins by profiling several New York neighborhoods across the boroughs: City Island in the Bronx, Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, Hamilton Heights and the Upper West Side in Manhattan, Astoria in Queens, and Tompkinsville in Staten Island. Day interviews local residents responsible for the introduction of street trees to their neighborhoods. She learns how these volunteers were inspired to plant the trees and how they continue to care for them.

Day also presents a series of interviews of professional “tree people” who work for the city parks, botanical gardens, and urban arbor organizations for an insider view of the myriad of tree efforts in NYC.

Identifying the Trees You See

The m2016-05-13 11.45.43ajority of the book is dedicated to teaching you the basics of tree identification.
It starts
with an illustrated glossary and introduction to tree terminology. The guide features fifty of the most common species of NYC street trees, including the Tree of Heaven, London Plane, Callery Pear, elms, lindens, magnolias, maples, and oaks.

For each tree species, there is an original drawing of leaves and photographs of bark, fruit, flower and twig. In addition to the descriptions of each species, Day offers the incredible useful bit of information –  specific addresses where you can see excellent examples of the trees.

Trekking into the Urban Forest

If you are just starting out, I encourage you to meet your closest tree. If you want to learn to recognize the street trees that grow near where you live and work, be inspired to explore other neighborhoods to see “famous trees,” and to learn how to care for street trees yourself, the Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City is an excellent resource. Though the book may be a bit heavy for everyday meandering, it is a great reference guide and starting point for New Yorkers.

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