Aren’t All Trees Magnificent?

Aren’t All Trees Magnificent?

When I began working at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in 1985, the search was on. We were looking for trees that would fit the bill for “The Great Trees of New York City” program. Sure enough, we had plenty of great trees at Clay Pit, including sandy barren survivalists like the Virginia Pine, Pinus virginiana and Pitch Pine, Pinus rigida. The ladder species only releasing its seeds when its fire heated cone burst open. We also had the most stunning assortment of oak trees that could ever be imagined. Those wild and crazy oaks mixed and mingled till it was almost impossible to identify the new varieties they had formed. This was when the great naturalist Carlton Beil was alive to focus in on these wonders. Hell’s bells he loved them all and he spent hours trying to decipher their ancestors. There was Pin, Post, Blackjack, White, Swamp White, and a host of others oak types at the Park Preserve. Well, we certainly contributed our fair share of recommendations for consideration to the program.

I wondered recently what became of “The Great Trees of New York City” program. So, I did a google search that led me to a New York City Parks Department webpage that listed the “Great Trees” of each borough. Only ten dendrological gems made the Staten Island list. None of the champs cited were from Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. But the fabulous Cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani planted by Frederick Law Olmsted at the Poillon-Akerly-Olmsted-Beil House on Hylan Boulevard in Eltingville had made the cut, as had a magnificent Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera at Forest Avenue and Clove Road in Clove Lakes Park. But aren’t all Tulip Trees magnificent? Actually, aren’t all trees magnificent?

For details on “The Great Trees of Staten Island” visit

Images: 1. Baltimore Orioles and Tulip Trees. 2. Whip-Poor-Wills with Black Oaks. Both prints by John J. Audubon, 1840-1844. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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