Photo: Art Presson
The trees at Green-Wood are the very heart of its name and natural beauty. They have defined the romantic and rural character of the Cemetery for over 180 hundred years. And they currently stand on the frontline of human impact on the environment of the Cemetery and, indeed, the world. Since the initial inventory of trees was taken in 2006, the health of many of the trees has declined and there has been dramatic canopy loss from storm events, chronic environmental stressors, invasive flora and fauna, and old age. In response, Green-Wood has taken aggressive action to preserve its veteran specimens and restore its Living Collections.
In 2018, ninety-eight trees deemed structurally unsound or in poor health were removed. Over half of these were invasive Norway maples, sycamore maples, and trees-of-heaven, which aggressively outcompete native and desired ornamental species. Three hundred new trees were planted—two-thirds along historic allées—to replace those that were lost during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Funding was provided by the Superstorm Sandy Disaster Relief for Historic Properties of the National Park Service. A generous grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Urban and Community Forestry program funded a project to prune and remove struggling trees along Green-Wood’s 4.5 mile perimeter.
Green-Wood may now also count itself among the ranks of New York State’s most esteemed botanical gardens, arboretums, bird sanctuaries, and natural habitat preserves, with the announcement that it has been awarded a prestigious grant from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. This grant will go a long way in supporting our efforts to preserve, care for, and interpret our natural collections.
Additionally, efforts to identify invasive pests that pose a threat to our Living Collection and the urban forest were expanded this year. Green-Wood was awarded funding by the Sentinel Plant Network, a collaboration between the National Plant Diagnostic Network and the American Public Gardens Association, to survey and trap gypsy moth, oak splendor beetle, white-lined silk moth, six-toothed bark beetle, Japanese pine sawyer, and oak ambrosia beetle species. Each of these target trees that enhance Green-Wood’s historic character and reflect its natural, native history including oaks, maples, and pines.
Green-Wood’s commitment to the conservation of its Living Collection was recognized with advancement to Level III Arboretum accreditation by ArbNet (an international arboretum accreditation program) at the end of the year. It reflects our active participation in tree science and conservation, the enhancement of our existing Living Collections, collaborations with other arboreta, and initiatives to publicize our collections.
In 2018, Green-Wood formed a partnership with Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science to launch a first-of-its-kind research initiative. The goal is to find practical solutions for urban landscapes to become more resilient in the face of global warming, posing questions such as: What are the alternatives to traditional lawns? What other plants and species of grass can be introduced that are more sustainable, yet also visually appealing? With Cornell, Green-Wood will develop new strategies for urban grasslands that address climate change and provide alternatives to fossil-fuel burning lawnmowers and herbicides.
This was the first year the new meadow near the Historic Chapel was in full flower. The new design for these steep slopes was created by renowned landscape designer Larry Weaner Associates to have four-season hardiness and visual interest. Because this area is too steep for burials, it’s a perfect place to reintroduce native species and reduce mowing. It has quickly become a visitor favorite.
Another exciting new program is Alive at Green-Wood. For the first time in 180 years, Green-Wood has signage on the grounds dedicated to interpreting its natural environment. Twelve interpretive panels with color photos and information about Green-Wood’s environment offer information on Green-Wood’s wildlife, the glacial moraine, sustainable landscape practices, tree species diversity, climate change, and more.
To mark the centennial of the birth of composer Leonard Bernstein, Green-Wood engaged landscape architect Julie Moir Messervy to re-design the Bernstein family lot. The lot now has five small and medium flowering trees, evergreen groundcover, and a selection of herbaceous perennials and flowering spring bulbs. The new design was officially introduced at Green-Wood’s annual gala in September, which honored the three children of the maestro, Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein.