5. The Native Plant Garden at NYBG Highlights Local Species

Native Plant Garden with black locust promenade and deckingNative Plant Garden with black locust promenade and decking

The 3 1/2 acre Native Plant Garden is a year-round horticultural spectacle celebrating the beauty, range, and ecological significance of Northeastern plants, displaying over 450 species distributed among nearly 100,000 native trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers. The garden’s decking, promenade, and benches are built with lumber from native, sustainably harvested black locust trees that have a special place in American history, says tour guide Joyce Newman.

Learning of black locust’s durable, flexible, and rot-resistant features from Native Americans, early pioneers used black locust for fence posts, ship masts, and for pegs—called trunnels—in shipbuilding. When wet, the wood expands and becomes leak proof, making the ship trunnels so strong that they outlasted the ship hulls. Naturalist Donald Peattie says that the British claimed that they were defeated on Lake Champlain in the War of 1812 because of the superiority of the “locust fleet” built by Americans with the trunnels.

What’s more, while the NYBG has embraced black locust as a beautiful, sustainable tree, some botanists regard it as an invasive pest, says Newman, because locust trees grow rapidly by sending out underground stems that send up shoots to form new trees.

Black locust deckingBlack locust decking