Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tree Finder Guide

For my birthday this year, one of the excellent presents I got from my parents was a tree finder guide my science class used in the 7th Grade. It’s kind of like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books. You know, "If you decide to descend into the dark basement to investigate the low growling noise, turn to page 8." Page 8: "The last thing you ever saw was the gleaming white teeth of the werewolf that lay in waiting." Except with trees.

Apparently this guide – and the 7th Grade science curriculum – is extremely memorable, because when my brother saw the book, he was instantly jealous and eager to ID some trees. "This one has a compound leaf – turn to page 16!"

Fort Greene Park has a great "Tree Trail," which identifies many of the species/varieties in the park. It's a great opportunity test out the guide and make sure you're using it correctly.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nature vs. Pavement: Round 1

One of my earliest memories is of being pushed in my stroller by my dad on Waverly Street in Philadelphia. As we rolled over the huge, canted flags of pavement that had been lifted by the roots of the hundred-year-old trees, he’d intone, “Uuuuup and dooooown, uuuuup and doooown.”

And so, in hon
or of my dad, this post and many in the future pays tribute to the sheer awesomeness of street trees in the ultimate battle of Nature vs. Pavement.

Lafayette Avenue and
Carlton Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Snapshot: Urban Forest

I thought I’d start with a snapshot of New York City's urban forest. According to the Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR), there are currently 5.2 million trees in the city. Through the 2006 tree census performed by DPR staff and over 1,000 volunteers, at least 168 different tree species were identified in NYC. The most predominant type of tree planted along the city’s streets is the London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia), easily recognizable by its peeling bark.

5.2 million trees is a lot of green, but there is room in our city to expand the urban canopy. Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative has set the goal of planting one million trees across the city over the next ten years. I had the pleasure of personally planting about 30 trees, mostly Pin Oaks (
Quercus palustris), in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx last fall. If you are interested in getting involved, you can go to the milliontreesNYC website. Here, you can volunteer to plant, as I did, donate money, or simply give DPR’s Forestry division a heads-up about streets in need of trees.

An Introduction

I’m what you’d call a city girl, but I was lucky enough to attend a progressive grade school when I was a kid that based our education in the classroom on experiences both in the urban environment of Center City Philadelphia and the wilds of a nature preserve in Upper Roxborough. My school’s tenet was and still is City, Country, Classroom.

Until recently, my life experience led me a-stray from this well-rounded educational foundation. Misery in a de facto suburban high school caused me to insist that my roots were set firmly in concrete, certainly not in lawn.

And while it is true that I will never again be persuaded to go camping and will never, ever pee in the woods, I realize now that I find joy and curiosity in the natural environment present and growing in the built environment of New York City, my home for the last eight years.

My hope for these posts is to focus on subjects such as the historic ecosystem, current civic endeavors to green and clean the urban environment, fun things to do and see in the city’s parks, and things you can do to help the environment on an individual level. I hope also to hear from you, as I am by no means an expert and am eager to learn more.