Imagine this: a bicycle tugging an entire mobile forest of New York City native flora. Believe it, as it will soon be pedaling alongside city traffic, presenting the perfect photo op for nature-deprived New Yorkers. The popup mobile woodland is arriving to Manhattan on May 11th, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of NYC Wildflower Week, which presents annual events dedicated to showcasing the city’s natural wonders. It’s all part of a larger initiative to create an immersive forest experience in Times Square, which, if realized, will bring towering trees, native wildflowers and nature sounds (live-streamed from Inwood Hill Park) to one of the most chaotic places in the city.
Although the Big Apple has more nature than any other city in North America, its “forests, marshes and meadows are in a constant battle against neglect and development,” says Marielle Anzelone, the founder and executive director of NYC Wildflower Week. For example, did you know that the city is home to 53,000 acres of open space and 778 native plants across its five boroughs? Or that Inwood Hill Park has 100-year-old trees and rare species of wildflowers?
To inspire New Yorkers to protect the natural heritage around them, the mobile forest will take to the streets of New York City, beginning in Manhattan at the Brooklyn Bridge and finishing in Times Square. The organizers “hope to raise awareness about urban wild places, foster emotional engagement and connect urbanites to nature,” says Anzelone. “This pop-up forest will cultivate an experience, rather than merely display an installation.” As such, New Yorkers are encouraged to visit the bike at scheduled locations to take nature selfies amidst the foliage, see cute kids dressed as white milkweed, and grab free plants.
Renderings of popup forest in Times Square. Image courtesy Marielle Anzelone
Following the bike tour, the NYC Wildflower Week team has plans in the works for a forthcoming, large-scale forest installation that will be erected in the middle of Times Square. “What if you took a forest and put it in the most incongruous spot in the city?,” Anzelone asks in the Kickstarter video about the project, which has received $40,404 in backing so far. To bring the idea to life, NYC Wildflower Week has been in negotiations with various elected officials, corporations, and philanthropic foundations to organize the installation, which will allow New Yorkers to “momentarily slip away with flowering shrubs, mosses, and understory vegetation,” and sensory experiences like guided woodland walks.
Until then, make sure to participate in the variety of events being offered by NYC Wildflower Week from May 11th to May 20th, 2018. This includes a spring migration bird walk, a workshop on urban gardening with native plants, and a visit to the wildflowers in the northwest woods in The Bronx. NYC Wildflower Week is hosted by the Torrey Botanical Society, an organization established informally by Columbia College Professor John Torrey in the 1860’s for people interested in the flora of the New York City metro area. It’s thought to be the oldest botanical society in America, and regularly presents lectures, plant walks, and offers fellowships that support graduate studies. For more information, visit the nycwildflowerweek.org and check out the full event page.