Best Of

Best place for Trees 101


The skyward persimmon tree looks to be made from thousands of tiny blocks stacked together, the sprawling black cherry like something that came off the ark way before Evan Almighty. If you’re aiming to learn your New York trees, those two are easy pickings at the Native Flora Garden, an obscure loop on the western edge of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A little harder to learn—but nowhere easier than here—are the hickories and maples, and the seemingly endless varieties of tree species that all count as oaks. Maybe someone besides a trained arborist can tell the northern oak from the red one, but I can’t. What I can do, having made several laps of this two-acre gallery of trees, is spot a pin oak from a hundred paces. I can pick out an elm by the shape of its canopy. And though I still can’t discern a nut tree from a fruit one, these days I can tell you they both tend toward smooth, ovoid leaves. Seriously, it’s good enough for now. Since 1931, the Native Flora Garden has displayed nine distinct plant realms found in the Empire State, from kettle ponds and pine barrens to dry meadows and something called “serpentine rock.” You can circumnavigate the whole deal in 10 minutes. Just repeat a few times annually, reading the handy labels as you go, and you’ll add an essential arrow to your quiver of nerdiness.