New York City is home to over five million trees and 168 different species. From trees lining sidewalks to wooded lands, New York’s urban forest lands help provide the city with cleaner air, cleaner water and lower summer temperatures.
Currently, arboretums, or wooded areas that provide protected spaces for trees to thrive, dot all five of New York City’s boroughs and cover over 6,000 acres of public land. An oasis of nature in an otherwise hectic urban landscape, these tree stands offer both a wooded habitat area for native plants and animals and a glimpse of New York City before roads, skyscrapers and urban sprawl took over the region.
Arboretums also offer a perfect escape from city life, a place for a picnic and a great place to learn about New York’s diverse tree species. Here are five urban forests in each of the five boroughs.
Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park is home to a 400-year-old white oak tree and a grove of oak, hickory and sweet-gum trees. Hikers will enjoy the Kazimiroff Trail, a trail that winds through 189 acres of Hunter Island and is home to a number of spruce and white pines. Be on the lookout for great horned owls, which live in the tall fir trees along the path.
Owl’s Head Park
Located on the property of former estate owner Eliphalet W. Bliss, the land was given to the city of New York to be used for a park in the 1920s. Offering amazing views of New York Harbor, Owl’s Head Park has a diverse number of old-growth trees, including colorful oak trees, maples, beeches and tulip poplars, making it an excellent destination to enjoy the changing leaves of fall or to enjoy a tree-lined walk with friends.
Inwood Hill Park
History-filled Inwood Hill Park is home to the last naturally occurring hardwood forest in Manhattan as well as a trove of geological and archeological sites. Trail walkers pass by old-growth oak and hickory trees, dramatic caves, valleys and ridges left as the result of shifting glaciers, the last natural salt marsh in Manhattan and evidence of native American habitation dating back to the 17th century. Recent plantings of tulip poplar trees also give the park a bright yellow hue during the fall months.
Forest Hill Park
Forest Park is home to the longest continuous oak forest in Queens as well as an impressive range of tree species including scarlet oak, tulip poplar, shagbark hickory and sassafras trees. Hiking trails are a great way to explore the 165 acres of trees on foot while horse lovers may want to rent a mount for the day from the park’s stables and try out one the bridle paths that snake through the forest areas.
Clove Lakes Park
Clove Lakes Park is home to Staten Island’s largest living ‘thing’, a 300-year-old tulip tree that stands well over 100 feet tall. Spared the ax when settlers came into the area, this tall piece of history is a must when visiting the park. Designated as a ‘Forever Wild’ site, this park has endured pains to preserve Staten Island’s natural history, which can be explored via trails and paths that run throughout the park.
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Tamar Auber is a freelance writer whose work can be found on Examiner.com.