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Tree Walk: London planetrees of Washington Square Village

Looking south towards SoHo.

A frequent walking route takes me through Washington Square Village, one of NYU's faculty housing developments. My absolute favorite parts of Washington Square Village are the trees. I won't showcase them all in this post. This entry is about the London planetrees that lines the westernmost roadway into the village.

There are 23 planetrees: 11 on the east and 12 on the west-side of the roadway. The eastern trees appear smaller in diameter than the ones opposite them. Coincidentally, or not, the eastern trees are growing in an asphalt sidewalk below grade of the Village park/garden/courtyard. In contrast, the trees on the western side of the roadway are larger in diameter and are growing behind a hedge, in a lawn.

One of the identifying features of the London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia) is its bark. The bark exfoliates to reveal a spectrum of colors: yellow-green, gray, brown, dark brown. The coloring resembles a soldier's camouflage. (A sycamore's base color, if you will, tends to be white, not yellow-green.)

At the base of each of the planetrees growing on the east-side of the roadway is a short, metal guard. At the time of installation, the guards may have protected the trees from car doors, but now, there is a fence that could serve this purpose. Also, the trunks are quite close to the filling the interior of the guards. A few of the guards are covered with mesh to prevent their use as trash bins. The only use for the guards at this point seems to be to post "You Are Parked Here Illegally" signs.

Question: On your daily route, have you taken notice of particular trees?


Les said…
This is one of my favorite shade trees. My yard is too small for any more trees, so my parents and their large yard have become the beneficiaries of my many tree obsessions. The London Plane was the first tree I bought for them, and it is doing its job just fine.
I hope the trees pictured get those gaurds removed before it becomes an issue.

The trees I currently notice daily are Crape Myrtles.
Georgia said…
Thanks Les. The planetree is also on my favorite big tree list.

I have not noticed any crape myrtles in NYC but there were several in my Berkeley neighborhood especially planted beneath utility wires.
Anonymous said…
I am not very good at noticing trees, but I always notice the London planetrees. I am a big fan of London planetrees. Not only is the bark so interesting, but also I like the spacing between the branches.
Karen said…
Not sure I have noticed this kind of tree before but your photos of the bark are lovely. Sad about the guards, those trees look like they are in jail! Is there someone you could mention this to, NYC city arborists (do they have them?) or ??

Hey, thanks for the link to that wonderful Toronto post. Are you planning to do a piece on it or would you mind if I reposted it on Greenwalks? If you are going to use it, I can wait and link to yours instead. It totally made my day to read about what one person did to make life better for the whole street.
Karen said…
PS The trees I am noticing at the moment, sadly, are the ones that are suffering from the heat and dryness of our strange summer. Several look dead, some (mature katsuras on our street) dropping leaves but still look like they might make it. At least it rained this week, so maybe there's hope still.
Georgia said…
I appreciate your contribution to the blog.

Thanks for the comments. I am thinking of writing a letter to the company that manages the NYU properties (I don't think the trees are on a public street).

Maybe you can organize a water brigade for the heat-stressed trees (
Welcome to New York!

At the end of October I'll be guiding a walking tour of street trees in my neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn, including century-old London Planes planted when the area was developed at the turn of the 20th century.
Georgia said…
Xris: I am so excited about your future street tree tour. Please be sure to send details to me at info(at) Thank you!