Prospect Park, Brooklyn

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Erik Danielsen
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Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:54 pm

In seeking out worthy forests in NYC, I rely heavily on parks department descriptions, wikipedia pages, facebook pages and image searches to hint at whether or not a given site has tall or old trees. On this basis, I had mostly sidelined Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Nothing I could find seemed to suggest that there would be interesting trees to find. I read about a wooded portion called "The Ravine," planted around remnants of a bit of old forest, but Central Park has one of those too- and it's not a particularly interesting place for the dendrophile. I expected similar from the ravine in Prospect Park.

Nonetheless, on Friday 4/8 I was in the neighborhood for work and more than happy to be very, very wrong after all.
Sorry for the crappy cellphone camera- snapped this shot as the pedestrian was about even with the enormous Willow Oak.
Sorry for the crappy cellphone camera- snapped this shot as the pedestrian was about even with the enormous Willow Oak.
"The Ravine" is formed by a rocky ridge that runs from the southwest to northeast corners of the park. Within the central ravine are sections of very nice, relatively natural forest- I did not have the chance to survey all of this, but it heights and girths in that section are moderate. The southern half looks like it might contain some older and taller sections. Where I did spend time was on the eastern side of the north portion of the ridge, where the ridge slopes down to an area of flat, wet, rich soil that's reforested with both native species and planted exotics. It's an aesthetically wonderful collection of thick, tall, high-crowned trees, well spaced and healthy. The cut stump of a fallen beech around 3' across indicated very fast growth, so this forest may be younger than appearances would suggest. The species composition is a bit... unique. Aside from the 3 species of elm I recognized, there was a fourth- with somewhat more plate-y bark, almost like a very coarse black oak bark. This was the only one that was not already in flower. Some leaves below resembled rock elm but I'm not ready to draw any conclusions. In spite of the presence of northern red and pin oaks nearby, I was also finally able to isolate a Scarlet Oak by its leaves and acorns below and faintly different bark, and look forward to becoming more familiar with that species' subtle characteristics so that next winter I can tell it apart more readily. A big surprise was the most enormous Willow Oak I've seen, which outpoints any other measured in NY so far on girth alone.
Tuliptree
121.9
116.6
Norway Maple
108.6
Sycamore Maple
92.5
Hackberry streamside on the upper ridge
78.9
Green Ash
109.6
Honey Locust upper ridge
90.4
Sweetgum
108.1
104.5
London Planetree
100.4
White Oak probably most common species in the big tree section, but few are very tall
101.9
Swamp White Oak upper ridge
102.3
Scarlet Oak new state max
109.3
Pin Oak new state max
110.1
104.7
102.7
Northern Red Oak
107.9
106.1
Black Oak
107.2
Willow Oak
88.2/16.4'cbh
Sassafras
92.1
Baldcypress upper ridge, streamside
92.2 new state max
American Elm
102.2
English Elm the most numerous elm, many 3'+dbh
109.9
109.8
104.7
104.4/11.9'cbh
Slippery Elm
106.6
Undetermined Elm
94.6/~4'dbh intermediate form

Unfortunately I did not have a proper camera with me and was disinclined to measure many girths since I was carrying a full information-tabling kit backpacking-style, which I didn't want to continuously take on and off to scramble through undergrowth. I'll be back! Tall trees from this site have by no means been exhausted. The baseball field-lawn area I exited through also contained many impressive open-grown trees. Infinitely more worthwhile for tree lovers visiting NYC than Central Park.

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Lucas
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Re: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Post by Lucas » Sun Apr 10, 2016 3:52 pm

Are both the big ones willow oak?
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Apr 10, 2016 7:25 pm

Lucas, the large tree behind the Willow Oak is a tulip.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Post by Erik Danielsen » Mon Aug 08, 2016 12:29 pm

Back in mid-May I did some more measuring at Prospect Park. It's such a large park, with so many nice old trees, so it's not surprising that I found some exceptional specimens- what's surprising is that it took me so long to get to writing up this post!

Strolling through the park I encountered a number of nice trees, near to the southern end of the ravine. Part of the forest at this end is inaccessible as it's actually a Quaker Cemetery that's actively maintained, and entry to which is pretty heavily restricted. I still managed to measure an impressive tulip (124', so far the tallest tree I've measured in Brooklyn) and pin oak (105.7') that grew on the other side of the fence in a clearing.

From there I skirted the lake in hopes of finding an even taller Bald Cypress. There is one large specimen, but it tops out at just 88'. There's a large collection of tall, thick Ginkgos. The tallest point I could hit on any was 91.9' but this was post-leafout and I suspect that some in this stand do top that. In the clearing just past these Ginkgos was a surprise- another enormous Willow Oak that stands as the largest Oak I've had the pleasure of measuring, anywhere, at 349.6 AF points.
19.4'cbh, below which the trunk flares considerably but above which it probably remains over 16'cbh about 25' up to the first real branching.
19.4'cbh, below which the trunk flares considerably but above which it probably remains over 16'cbh about 25' up to the first real branching.
91.9' in height is also pretty respectable for this open-grown specimen.
91.9' in height is also pretty respectable for this open-grown specimen.
While the Average Crown Spread of 101.6' is also quite respectable, the long limb stretching to the right of this photo, and another long low branch on the opposite side lend a maximum crown spread of 125.4'
While the Average Crown Spread of 101.6' is also quite respectable, the long limb stretching to the right of this photo, and another long low branch on the opposite side lend a maximum crown spread of 125.4'
Heading further north along the lake I came to a row of what appeared, from a distance, to be sycamores, but when I got closer it became clear that these were in fact the nicest London Plane trees I've seen. I tend to think of London Plane as a bit of a "junk" tree, but perhaps I've been misinformed by constant exposure to street-tree specimens that are malformed by the stresses of having about half a parking spot's worth of space for root development. With good soil and less root compaction, many in this row of tall planetrees did a good job of evoking their parent species. While I can't be sure of having hit tops, I measured five and got heights of 120.1, 118', 116.6, 115.3, and 107.7.
The row of Planetrees
The row of Planetrees

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:05 pm

Over the course of the last couple months I've made a couple more quick visits to Prospect Park, getting some nice photos and measuring a few more trees. The Great Willow Oak demands repeated visits, of course. I have not revised its measurements. It is now officially listed as the state champion. Arborist Alec Baxt from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden mentioned that he'd been part of the crew up in the tree that had to do a minor crown reduction about a decade ago, and fortunately it sounds like a lot of the arborists who work for Parks in that area are fond of it. Photographer Brian Kelley, working with American Forests to do a photo archive of our National Champion Trees, also took the time to compose a careful portrait of the Willow Oak on a visit with me. I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
The champion willow oak
The champion willow oak
Once more, for scale
Once more, for scale
I revisited the impressive stand of London Planetrees to revise their numbers; the tallest three measure as follows:

123.5' tall/13.3'cbh
119.5' tall/12.3'cbh
115.7' tall/12.6'cbh
The tallest of the planetrees is one of the lowest-branching- perhaps some inter-stem competition boosts the height.
The tallest of the planetrees is one of the lowest-branching- perhaps some inter-stem competition boosts the height.
Alongside one of the walking paths I unexpectedly encountered an extremely large white ash as well; I've said it before but I'll say it again- of NYC's manicured, landscaped parks, Prospect Park is by far the best for dendrophiles. Central Park is ok. Prospect Park impresses me with a new surprise every time I visit, and I've been quite a few times now. There are some forest-grown Willow Oaks in the Ravine section that should exceed 100' and provide a new state max that I mean to get to every time I visit, and every time something else distracts me first.
The very large Ash- 15.7'cbh, single stem. At least 99.5' tall from my quick measurement.
The very large Ash- 15.7'cbh, single stem. At least 99.5' tall from my quick measurement.
Quite the hornbeam! There's a nice collection of whimsically-formed european hornbeams near the planetrees.
Quite the hornbeam! There's a nice collection of whimsically-formed european hornbeams near the planetrees.

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