4. The Magnolia Grandiflora on Lafayette Avenue is one of two landmarked trees in the city

The Magnolia Grandiflora in Bedford-Stuyvesant
Magnolia Grandiflora

The Magnolia grandiflora in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the city’s two landmarked trees (and the only one still standing), is located in front of 678 Lafayette Avenue across from Herbert Von King Park. The tree was planted in 1885 by William Lemken from a seedling from North Carolina. The evergreen tree releases white lemon-scented flowers, and the species was one of the first exotic trees to be exported to Europe. The Landmarks Preservation Commission landmarked the tree in 1970, writing in the official designation report: “It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that the seedling which Mr. William Lemken sent up from North Carolina some 85 years ago…. should have survived so long. It is thus for its inherent beauty as well as for its rare hardiness that this particular Magnolia grandiflora has become a neighborhood symbol and a focus of community pride.”

A local resident named Hattia Carthan was responsible for preserving the tree in the 1950s and raising funds for it in the face of oncoming development. Carthan founded the Magnolia Tree Earth Center in 1972 to bring green programs to Bedford-Stuyvesant and to encourage environmental awareness and youth development in the community. Magnolia Grandiflora is one of the many locations featured in our book Secret Brooklyn.