A Statue of Liberty Photo Tour of Trees

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Statue of Liberty Photo Tour of Trees - The History

Liberty Island. Photo by Steve Nix
To celebrate the centennial of American independence in 1876, Edouard de Laboulaye, a French legal scholar and authority on America, planned a gift for the American people as a symbol of French admiration of the American democratic ideal and friendship. De Laboulaye did not live to see the statue move to the United States.

Auguste Bartholdi was chosen as sculptor and sent to America in 1871 to propose the monument to President Ulysses S. Grant and to choose a site. Bartholdi saw that New York Harbor, as a major entry point to America for immigrants, had the right symbolic value.

Liberty Island, one of a group of islands in New York Harbor near the mouth of the Hudson River, was the site chosen in 1877. It was then known as Bedloe's Island. Bedloe's Island flew the flags of Holland, England, and the United States; and for a brief time it was lent to the French Government to be used as an isolation station in 1793-96.

Lady Liberty was transported from France to America in 1885 and erected on the Island in the center of a star-shaped fort with eleven points. She now stands some 300 feet above the Harbor. Liberty Island is only 12 acres in size.

02
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The Trees of Liberty Island

Lady Liberty Island
Lady Liberty's Trees. United States Army - Flickr Photo
Although the Statue of Liberty is stunning to view, her small, 12-acre island would not be as beautiful without the nearly 400 planted trees. All the trees are maintained by a National Park Service (NPS) horticulturist and staff.

I was lucky enough to visit in late Spring and the leaves (with exception of the London planetree) were in full display. No native tree stood out among the trees on the island; most trees I found prominently displayed were exotics from Eastern and Western Europe and Japan. But that seems to fit with the island's history of being internationally influenced. Actually, only five tree species make up the bulk of the island's forest - they are little-leaf linden, London planetree, horse chestnut, Norway maple and Kwanzan cherry.

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Liberty Island - Little-leaf Linden - Tilia Cordata

The Little-leaf Linden - Tilia Cordata
The Little-leaf Linden - Tilia Cordata. Photo by Steve Nix

You are looking at the back of The Statue of Liberty just as you arrive on site after leaving the ferry dock. Little-leaf linden trees are planted throughout the plaza at the back base entrance. They are well marked and displayed by the National Park Service.

The little-leaf linden is native to Europe and the Caucasus and is a very "popular to plant" American street tree in the Northeast through the upper Midwest. The tree is also called little-leaved linden and the British call it small-leaved lime. The linden has a potential of reaching 50 to 70 feet in height with a 30 foot spread.

Tilia cordata is a cool weather tree and totally languishes in the Southeast. It's pyramidal to pyramidal-rounded shape and dense foliage make it an excellent landscape tree. It loves heavy clay soils and acid soils with a higher pH.

More About Little-leaf Linden: Tilia cordata

04
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Liberty Island - Horsechestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

Horsechestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum
Horsechestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum. Photo by Steve Nix

You are looking at the left side of The Statue just as one turns back from the Manhattan skyline. There is a grove of horsechestnuts on the north bank of the island. They are not as clearly marked but you can't miss the distinctive palmate leaf.

The horsechestnut is native to Europe and the Balkans and not really a chestnut. It is a relative of the North American buckeyes. The shiny, polished nuts they produce look edible but are actually very bitter and poisonous. Horsechestnut's blossom has been described as a "candlelabra of the gods" because of its lush flower panicle. The tree grows to 75 feet and can be 70 feet wide.

Aesculus hippocastanum is actually very seldom planted in the United States anymore. It is afflicted with a "blotch" that causes unsightly browning of leaves by summer. The tree grows in an upright-oval shape. The leaves are palmate and composed of 7 leaflets that turn a respectable yellow in the fall.

More About horse chestnut: Aesculus hippocastanum

05
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Liberty Island - Norway Maple - Acer platanoides

Norway Maple Silhouette - Acer platanoides
Norway Maple - Acer platanoides. Photo by Steve Nix

You are looking off Liberty Island toward Manhattan through a Norway maple silhouette. The Statue can be seen by turning around 180 degrees. Norway maples are planted strategically along the Island's view of New York City. They are well marked and displayed by the NPS.

The Norway maple was first introduced to North America from Europe by botanist John Bartram in 1776. He established the tree by selling seeds and seedlings throughout the Northeast. Norway maple was planted by the thousands in the 1930's as a replacement for American elms killed by Dutch elm disease. It has become one of the most common and, unfortunately, most invasive trees that disrupts native forest regeneration. The tree grows to 70 feet and can be 50 feet wide.

Acer platanoides is not in favor with landscapers, urban foresters and gardeners. Its tolerance to stress is suspect and is highly susceptible to a fungal disease called verticillium wilt. The Asian longhorned beetle is also a concern with this tree. The tree is generally quite tolerant of extremes in climate and soils.

More About Norway Maple: Acer platanoides

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Liberty Island - Kwanzan Cherry - Prunus serrulata

Kwanzan Cherry - Prunus serrulata
Kwanzan Cherry - Prunus serrulata. Photo by Steve Nix

You are looking through a flowering Kwanzan cherry and young saplings toward Manhattan. The Kwanzan cherry is over Central Park and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Again, by turning around 180 degrees you will see Lady Liberty. The young trees you see in the foreground are from a Ladies Auxiliary VFW Grove of Honor tree project. The Kwanzan cherry is of Asian and Japanese origin. The tree graces urban centers like Washington D.C., New York City, Brooklyn and Vancouver, Canada. Festivals throughout North America are dedicated to the honor of the tree's bubblegum pink blossoms. The tree grows 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide.

According to Dr. Mike Durr in his book, Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs, Prunus serrulata "epitomizes to most gardeners all that is sacred about cherries. In its finest forms, the habit is vase-shaped to rounded." These trees are short lived and only expected to survive for 10 to 15 years. Viruses lead to gradual decline and death.

More About Kwanzan cherry: Prunus serrulata

07
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Liberty Island - London Planetree - Platanus x acerifolia

London Planetree - Platanus x acerifolia
London Planetree - Platanus x acerifolia. Photo by Steve Nix

This century-old London planetree grove was photographed from Ellis Island facing The Statue. This same tree species is also growing on Liberty Island. Can you imagine what immigrants thought looking through these planetrees toward Liberty Island?

The London planetree got its name from extensive use in the city of London, England. It is a hardy hybrid of the American sycamore and the Oriental sycamore of southeastern Europe and Asia. John Tradescant, gardener to Charles I of England, planted an American sycamore in his personal garden from seed acquired in Virginia in 1637. It is thought that these trees cross-pollinated with the oriental sycamore to produce the London plane.

Platanus x acerifolia is considered by some to be the world's most reliable city tree. Art Plotnik in his Urban Tree Book describes it: "big, shady, and stylishly mottled, it has not only the charm to grace fashionable boulevards but also the grit to survive their poisons." The tree has also been embraced by Paris and Parisians which makes it a fitting tree to be on Liberty Island.

More About London planetree: Platanus x acerifolia

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Nix, Steve. "A Statue of Liberty Photo Tour of Trees." ThoughtCo, Jan. 19, 2016, thoughtco.com/a-statue-of-liberty-photo-tour-of-trees-1342945. Nix, Steve. (2016, January 19). A Statue of Liberty Photo Tour of Trees. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-statue-of-liberty-photo-tour-of-trees-1342945 Nix, Steve. "A Statue of Liberty Photo Tour of Trees." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-statue-of-liberty-photo-tour-of-trees-1342945 (accessed November 22, 2017).