The Great Trees of Central Park
I love Central Park. I live close to the North Woods, so I’m often in the Park. Its beauty has been a balm and savior to my pandemic-addled soul. I am a licensed tour guide; I conduct Central Park VIP Tours, and, at other times, I’m strolling randomly along its pastoral and picturesque paths. Over time I have learned to appreciate the trees I see. There is more of a story than you might expect about them. Very few are original. On our Central Park VIP tours, you will come to appreciate them as I do.
On October 17, 1858, the first trees ordered by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the Park’s designers, arrived on site. Mr. Olmsted was constantly battling with Andrew Haswell Green, the city controller, to procure the trees he envisioned for the site. Some of the trees did not meet Mr. Olmsted’s standards.
Mr. Green insisted that Olmsted use them anyway. Olmsted learned that the best way to deal with the situation was to have the trees immediately mulched. Mr. Green was unhappy, but he could do nothing except allow Olmsted to procure more suitable trees.
Ultimately Olmsted planted 171 different tree species, totaling about twenty thousand trees. Oaks, American Elms, Cherry Trees, Tulip Trees, sycamores, London Plane, and willows. Unlike the rocks I discussed in another blog, the trees are not as long-lived.
We often come upon recently downed trees on our Central Park tour. They lie sadly and broken on their sides, slowly shedding their bark, trunks wretched dramatically and surprisingly from their roots. Over time they will decompose; for now, they provide habitats for animals, plants, insects, and fungi.
Thirteen years, on August 18, 2009, a tornado ripped through the North Woods; they estimate that the winds exceeded ninety miles an hour. The twister blew down five hundred trees and damaged about a thousand, including the two oldest and tallest sycamore trees. Trees do not last forever, and the landscape of the Park changes constantly.
During the 1950s and ’60s, the Park suffered severe neglect; the Ramble and North Woods trees went rogue and seeded themselves; those specimens continue to grow today. On your Central Park VIP tour, your guide will discuss the efforts made by the Central Park Conservancy to restore the Park to its original beauty. They have done a remarkable job, as you will see.
On The Central Park VIP Tours, You Will See Some of The Great Trees in The Park.
I have favorites; one of them is the Humboldt Elm at the park entrance on 77th & CPW. This beauty is one of the oldest in the Park; its branches reach high into the sky and drop gracefully down to brush the ground.
The Elm stands next to a bust of Friedrich von Humboldt (September 14, 1769 – May 6, 1859), a German polymath, geographer, naturalist, explorer, and proponent of Romantic philosophy and science. He is the first environmentalist. He understood that all of nature was connected, and human actions affected the natural world. The tree is a fitting companion to this great scientist; he’d be honored.
Around the Pool in the Northern section of the Park are stately willows, cypresses, tulip trees, elms, oaks, and others. Although trees provide shade and habitats for numerous birds and other animals, they offer other not-so-obvious benefits.
For instance, the bark of the willow tree was used by the native people, the Lenni Lenape, to treat headaches, backaches, and inflammatory diseases. Later, scientists synthesized Salicylic acid from the tree, a precursor to aspirin. Other medicinal uses for the bark of this tree are as an anti-inflammatory agent, to stop bleeding, and to ease heartburn and stomach ailments. We’ll see Osage Orange trees and Yew trees; these trees still provide valuable woods and medicines.
On your private tour, you can explore The Ramble, the North Woods, and the Hallett Conservatory, the most heavily wooded areas of the Park.
The most stately and familiar trees are the American Elm.
A blight wiped out most elm trees in the US, except in Central Park. On our Central Park tour, you will have the privilege of strolling the Mall. Rising overhead on either side is the largest stand of elm trees anywhere. These unique trees will continue to shine their beauty down upon us through careful cultivation and care as we watch them change throughout the seasons.
Join us on a private Central Park VIP tour; you will be surprised and enchanted by what you see and learn.