Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Tree Tour on Sunday, Oct. 24

It's time for fall color. Come along for a tour of Green-Wood's trees from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 24th.

The entrance is at 5th Ave. and 25th St. in Brooklyn. We'll meet just inside the Arch (the big brownstone arch) at 2 p.m. and go from there.

Wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring a bottle of water if you think you might need it (there are no drinking fountains along the way). I will try to work in a bathroom break, but I'm still planning the route based on which trees will have the best fall color, so it's not a guarantee. There are bathrooms where we will start and finish the tour, however.

The tour will be $10. Part of that will go to the Historic Fund, which helps maintain the grounds and the lots, and preserves the history of Green-Wood.

Monday, September 27, 2010


-the biggest beech tree in the cemetery-

Spotted in the Cemetery

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Himalayan Pine

Himalayan pine (Pinus wallichiana) needles grow in bundles of five.

When the leaves are fully grown, they're quite long.

Here is a cluster of male strobili right below the new leaves.

-view from under a Himalayan pine-

The larger cone is a Himalayan pine cone.

-unripe cones-

-ripe cones-

Saturday, July 10, 2010


The stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) flowers are similar to the Franklin tree blooms or, as the species name indicates, camellias: white petals with orange anthers.

The growing flower buds look like pin cushions.

This native of Japan is a three-season tree: beautiful summer blossoms, excellent fall color, and exfoliating bark (for winter interest).

These trees do not establish easily. Green-Wood has several young stewartias that I hope will survive the drought.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Brooklyn Underground

Many Green-Woods collided at the Artful Conspirator's preview last month of "Brooklyn Underground: Theatrical Stories from the Green-Wood Cemetery." The performance opened with a clash of opinion which wasn't about liking or disliking the historic Brooklyn cemetery; each character agreed that it was wonderful. It was the "why" that was the point to be argued. A referee came out to make sure the debate was carried out in an orderly fashion. There was the tree constituent, who argued that the finest part is the landscape, the history buff, who brought to attention the famous people who are buried there, and the monument faction. These are all current, present-time voices, however, and we all know that there is more to Green-Wood than the living. The cemetery's past was evoked with selections from a book of regulations from 1853, some that surely have evolved in a straight line from then to now, such as those concerning plot sizes, and others that are humorously archaic (with mentions of riding on horseback and speed limits of four miles per hour). But what does make Green-Wood so special to its neighbors? It might not have to do with the past or the present, but a superimposition of one on the other: the imagined stories and lives of any of the 560,000 permanent residents. The theater group segued into this imagined Green-Wood with an interpretation of the family dynamics that might have led to the placement of two 19th-century family members at the opposite ends of a plot. Aaron Fisher provided the music, including a rendition of a song that DeWitt Clinton might sing if he had today's rap music at his disposal. The show was reminiscent of Spike Jonze's film Adaptation in which the audience is taken through the process of discovery and witnesses the resulting creation. There couldn't be a more fitting way to convey what Green-Wood is. Although the show might morph into another animal by the end of August, if the Artful Conspirators bring the same talent, heart, and humor that they brought to the preview, it's going to be a pure delight.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


In spring, sections of the lawn were covered with purple, and I thought to myself how delightful it was. I read about these little violets and to my surprise found out that they are largely considered a weed. But what is a weed, I wondered.

There is no definitive list of which plants are weeds: weedness is in the eye of the beholder. We (in the U.S.) have been conditioned to think that lawns must be free of any plant that isn't the fine-blade grass we now worship. It hasn't always been like this, as Michael Weishan points out:

        The first lawns were just mown pasture; whatever flowers or
        “weeds” existed were let be. Later in the 1800s, nurseries
        began to sell specialized seed mixtures. The lovers of the
        monotone lawn that modern chemicals produce would no
        doubt wince at the mixture for a perfect lawn given by
        Frank Scott in 1876:

          12 quarts Rhode Island bent grass

          4 quarts creeping bent grass

          10 quarts red top

          3 quarts sweet vernal grass

          2 quarts Kentucky blue grass

          1 quart white clover

In Green-Wood, we tend to let these violets live.

And I saw these trumpet-shaped flowers the other day dotting the lawn near 9th Ave. I think it's field bindweed. I hope it's one of those that gets to survive as well.

I love these weeds.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kousa Dogwood

The kousas bloom about a month later than the flowering dogwoods.

On May 12th, the bracts on the kousa dogwoods had just started to grow...

They kept growing...

until the flowers finally bloomed. This was taken on June 4th.

But the show wasn't over: before the bracts fell off, they turned pink! From start to finish, the bracts last for about 5 or 6 weeks (which makes for a very long "flowering" time).

Here's a kousa in winter. You can see the vibrant fall color and exfoliating bark in the previous kousa post.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Here's the first dogwood (Cornus florida) flower that I saw this spring. Flower bud, I should say. What look like petals here are actually bracts, modified leaves. The inconspicuous flowers come out of the green buds in the center.

The flowering dogwood is native to the eastern United States and Mexico. Here's a white flowering dogwood with fully grown bracts.

This pink dogwood is in bloom. Notice the tiny yellow flowers in the center.

Cornus florida has a reputation for becoming gnarly and mangled as it matures.

Here's a flowering dogwood in the early fall.

The clusters of fruit ripen by late summer or early fall.

The flowering dogwood is one of my favorite trees in winter. I love the way the twigs hold the snow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

passion flower

I've seen stone flowers and plants adorning headstones, but this is the first passion flower I've seen.

The passion flower has been used as a symbol of the passion of Christ since the 16th century. Spanish conquistadors, perhaps in an effort to convert South American indigenous peoples to Catholicism, named the flower and used its parts to tell the story of the death of Christ. The petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles, the five anthers represent the five wounds, and the three stigmas represent the three nails. The flower also has a corona of thin lobes (although not carved here) that represent the crown of thorns.

The passion flower vine climbs up the cross, the ultimate symbol of the passion.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Southern Magnolia

Until last year, I thought the southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) was the only kind of magnolia tree. (I'm from the D.C. area.) I've since discovered the saucer magnolia, the bigleaf magnolia, and the cucumber magnolia, among other species, but the southern magnolia is especially dear to me. It's native to the southeastern United States. So far, they seem to be doing well up here too. (Okay, the growth isn't quite as vigorous as it would be down south.) If you haven't noticed a southern magnolia in winter, the waxy coating on the leaves might give you a hint that it's evergreen. Right now the southern magnolias are blooming. The flowers give off a strong citrusy fragrance.

Inside this flower, there were at least three honey bees. Here, a forager is heading back to the hive. Check out the pollen on her legs.

All of our southern magnolias are relatively young. You can find most of them in the south section near Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Some family plots have staircases going up from the road. They serve a purpose, especially when the grade is steep, but some of them are also decorative and seem to be an extra opportunity to embellish the family plot. Here is one of my favorites.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Click on the photo to make it bigger. Between the pond and the buildings, there are hedgerows of privet, newly trimmed. I only started to appreciate the privet (Ligustrum) after I saw it like this from a distance.

It's also nice up close when it's in flower.

These panicles of fragrant white flowers are reminiscent of lilac.

Here's another view of the hedgerow in winter. Click to see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To Weep or Not to Weep: Tales of Grafts Gone Bad, Part 3

I would say this is the end of the story of the cherry tree with two habits, but I have a feeling that it will eventually be cut down. That was the idea, I believe, when the grounds crew was sent to work on this tree. Instead of giving up on it, they cut out the root stock sport (which had almost completely taken over), and left the weeping limbs. It looks like a bad perm. Maybe it will fill in and look better in a few years. But probably not.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

a look back at winter cool you down on this hot day.