Artist Spencer Finch may have brought 4000 miniature Redwood trees to Brooklyn last year (still on view), but there is a bonafide dawn redwood tree towering above Houston Street, near the intersection of Bowery. Located inside Liz Christy Community Garden, this particular tree is thought to be the tallest redwood tree in Manhattan at over 100 feet.
But it’s also not the only Dawn Redwood tree in NYC, with others located in Central Park (at the north end of Strawberry Fields), in Pelham Bay Park and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (which has a grove of them), inside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, on Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights, and in Clove Lakes Park on Staten Island. Many of these redwood trees belong to New York City’s Great Trees program, which consist of unusual “heritage trees that were selected best represent the diversity and scale of New York City’s urban forest,” according to the NYC Parks Department (although the Houston one does not, and does not appear on NYC’s map of street trees either).
The deciduous conifer tree is related to the large redwood trees and giant sequoia from California and once populated the Northern Hemisphere. However, it was thought to be extinct for millions of years until 1941 when a pair of the trees was discovered in China. Since then, the Dawn Redwood (official name Metasequoia glyptostroboide) has been planted by the city as street trees, one of 42 species known to be able to fight off the Asian Long-horned Beetle. The tree has also been used to to memorialize emergency workers who died on 9/11, notes the The New York Times. According to the Times, the species can grow up to 150 feet, so this tree still has a ways to go.
According to New York City Trees, a field guide from the NYC Parks Department, the tree “looks very much like the bald cypress but grows much faster and tolerates a wide range of soil conditions.” The Liz Christy Garden also has the distinction of being the first official community garden in New York City, started by Liz Christy and her organization the Green Guerillas. She planted this redwood tree herself in the 1970s.