The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Did you know that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has over 3,700 trees! And each of these 3,700 trees are so incredibly unique and interesting. Most people head to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the effervescent Cherry Blossoms in the spring or the lush Rose Garden in the summer. Both are wonderful and whimsical, but this year, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden wants visitors to really notice the trees. They have launched a new exhibition called POWER OF TREES, which encourages you to, in the words of president and CEO of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Adrian Benepe, “see the trees for the forest.” POWER OF TREES will run through October 22nd. Let’s examine some of the many reasons POWER OF TREES is a NYC must see in the summer of 2023.
What is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York, has a rich and vibrant history that spans over a century. It was established in 1910 to create an oasis of nature in the urban landscape. The garden’s origins can be traced back to the efforts of prominent botanists and civic leaders who recognized the need for a dedicated space to cultivate and showcase a diverse array of plants. Over the years, the garden has expanded and evolved, encompassing 52 acres of meticulously curated landscapes, gardens, and collections. It has become a beloved institution, renowned for its horticultural excellence, educational programs, and commitment to conservation. From the iconic Cherry Esplanade to the enchanting Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden continues to captivate visitors with its beauty and serves as a sanctuary for both flora and fauna amidst the bustling cityscape.
The creation of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was born out of a collective desire to bring the wonders of nature to the heart of Brooklyn, New York. In the early 20th century, a group of visionary botanists, horticulturists, and civic leaders came together with the goal of establishing a botanical garden that would not only provide a sanctuary for plants but also serve as an educational and cultural resource for the community. Under the leadership of botanist Charles Stuart Gager and philanthropist Mary Clark Thompson, plans were set in motion, and in 1910, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden officially opened its doors to the public. The garden started with a modest 39 acres of land, but over time, it expanded to encompass 52 acres of diverse landscapes, including specialized gardens, conservatories, and plant collections. Through the tireless efforts of its dedicated staff and the support of the community, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has flourished, becoming a cherished institution and a treasured haven of natural beauty in the heart of the bustling city.
POWER OF TREES
Trees are the superheroes that protect mankind. Trees provide food, shelter, and pure, clean air. Trees have special properties that mitigate the increasingly devastating effects of climate change on our environment. Trees are the center of our ecosystem. In the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s new exhibition POWER OF TREES, they aim to shine a light on all trees do to mitigate climate change and what people can do to protect and advocate for trees.
When you look closely at the trees, you notice how incredibly diverse they are, how unique each is, both in appearance and what they provide to their environment. One of the more unique trees to seek out at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is the monkey puzzle tree. The monkey puzzle tree has spiky-looking leaves lining branches that almost look like monkey tails. They are hardy conifer trees and native to Chile and Argentina. The three monkey puzzle trees found at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden were originally grown in pots. It wasn’t until early 2023 that these specific monkey puzzles were planted into the earth.
In an interview with the author of this blog post, Adrian Benepe, the president and CEO of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, wondered aloud what this experience must be like for these monkey puzzle trees. He described a theory that plants can somehow communicate with one another underground through their roots. If that theory is true, these monkey puzzle trees had lived their entire life in isolation, not hearing a peep from another plant. Suddenly, they found themselves immersed into the soil with the vast collection of plants found at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. When the author asked Benepe how the monkey puzzle trees were responding, he said they were thriving. One of the head gardeners pointed out new, vibrant green growth near the base of the tree, indicating that the monkey puzzle trees, whether or not they could truly communicate with other plants, were loving their new homes.
Another tree to look out for has the unlikely name of the “Caucasian wingnut.” As the name might suggest, this tree was originally found in the caucuses, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Turkey. The Caucasian wingnut is easily identifiable by fruits that grow in a beautiful downward-hanging fashion, almost as if grapes were given green Ziegfeld Follies costumes. In fact, it’s these fruits, which almost look like they have wings, that give the tree it’s name. The trees are actually part of the walnut family!
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a gorgeous old Caucasian wingnut with branches expanding out onto the pedestrian pathways. Next to it is a smaller Caucasian wingnut. These two wingnuts may look similar, and that’s because the smaller wingnut is a clone of the larger one! This is just one of the many secrets hidden within Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s trees.
BRANCHING OUT ART
Brooklyn Botanic Garden has curated a site specific art collection for POWER OF TREES called BRANCHING OUT: Trees as Community Hosts.
BRANCHING OUT was curated by Cecilia André and features six modern works of art by local BIPOC artists. Each work was inspired by trees. One especially fun and interactive work of art is called “Yunza: Growing Our Roots,” by Peruvian artist Niceli Portugal.
In the work, Portugal draws on the immigrant experience, including her own. The work is inundated with meaningful Peruvian culture, including dolls and symbols painted onto the piece. In Peru, there is a tradition called Yunza, or a tree full of presents. Yunza usually takes place in February. There is an artificial tree filled with presents and everyone takes turns trying to chop it down. There is dancing, songs, and joyous community gathering. Portugal hopes her art brings people together the way that Yunza does. If you see her artwork, make sure that you head towards the back where you’ll find pieces of chalk and a measuring stick. You can measure yourself, mark your height, and write your name. You will have left your mark on the art and become part of that community.
Of course, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a marvelous place to take photos. If you love your photos, check out the Welcome to Times Square billboard, where you can share them with the world on a giant billboard in the heart of Times Square.
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