Street Trees of NYC, London, and Melbourne


One thing all cities share is the presence of one quiet and majestic inhabitant: the street tree! Take New York, Melbourne and London, which are all populated by the infamously urban stress tolerant London plane (Platanus x hispanica) and cherry trees (Prunus sp.). These trees can withstand an incredible amount of urban abuse: meager root space, unhealthy soil conditions, root damage from cars and sidewalk traffic, incorrect planting depth, haphazard pruning, abuse esp. girdling of their trunks, and sadly more. The benefits of city trees are infinite and include helping with storm water runoff, combating urban heat island effect, abating the effects of air pollution, providing shade, bird/ animal habitats and yes, making us all a heck of a lot happier!  

But no tree is hardy enough to withstand the negligence and abuse of human ignorance. Take East River Park, which is at this very moment being unceremoniously demolished to create flood walls and is commencing despite a court order to halt the project. The plan, which might have a favorable long term goal, has resulted in the clear cutting of 1000 city trees, some of which are upwards of 80 years old, and with better planning could have been saved. According to advocates, destroying and replacing these with saplings which will eventually grow into mature trees, does not excuse the devastation that such a large-scale demolition will have on the city. 

The plight of the urban tree is not without hope. Learning about and planting native trees is hugely important. For example, moving away from the invasive Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) which lines so many east coast streets in favor of native tree species like the red oak (Quercus rubra) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) means creating hearty and sustainable urban landscapes. The world.wide.spread use of nonnative trees is prevalent (see map), BUT as new trees are planted, there is infinite opportunity to foster healthy native species back into our cities.

So with that I say: Trees take care of us, let’s take care of them!! Please x, @stone__grown


Map: Jordan Engel. As always, the Decolonial Atlas’ original media can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.

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