london planetree grows in manhattan

While walking in Central Park on Sunday, I noticed a beautiful tree that looked very much like a sycamore, but with a fascinating bark. Now, I want you to know that I do not fancy myself a tree expert by any means, but I like to identify those things that please me. I don’t need to know the names of things that don’t. Since I remembered that the park often has identifying signs on the flora, I walked up and indeed found this.DSC_0144

Gorgeous, right?

I continued to walk and photograph my way through the park for another hour, waiting to go to a dinner being held very close by. Carpe Diem, bro.

It wasn’t until now that I took the opportunity to learn about this tree. This following my day in the city with D#1, going to MOMA, I really appreciate it even more! This is by Thomas J. Campanella, July 20, 2011, via the Wall Street Journal:

Though lacking the elm’s lissome beauty, the London plane is an ideal city tree—fast-growing, tolerant of pollutants and pruning, untroubled by pathogens or insect pests. In the 19th century it became the public tree of choice in many European capitals—first in London, then Paris (it was Haussmann’s favorite), later Rome. Platanus orientalis was well known to the Romans—Pliny devoted several pages to it in his Natural History, claiming the tree grew best with wine (“Thus we have taught even our trees to be wine drinkers”). The London plane was a later arrival, planted in great numbers by King Umberto I after Unification in 1870. By 1900 it was the most common street tree in Rome, constituting 35% of the urban forest; the storied Pinus pinea made up only 1%. Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” notwithstanding, the Italian capital is really a city of planes.

It was via Rome that the plane came to have such universal presence in New York. The conduit was Michael Rapuano, a young landscape architect with Italian roots of his own. Son of Neapolitan immigrants, Rapuano studied landscape architecture at Cornell University and in 1927 won a coveted Rome Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. He noted planes in his travels around Europe, and knew well the great trees shading Roman thoroughfares near the academy—on the Janiculum and Viale di Trastevere and along the Tiber. A latter-day Xerxes, Rapuano fell in love with the plane and carried his affections back to New York.

Perhaps it’s the oldest tree in Manhattan, even. If not that one, then probably one close by.

Doesn’t matter, really.

Here’s a view of its neighbor.

DSC_0148

Lovely, no?

Here are a few more photos from my short time in the park.

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