New York's story told in roots and bark

New York City is home to roughly 7.5 million people and 2.5 million trees. The trees, like the people, have their own personal stories. Some were immigrants. Some stood sentinel during the American Revolution. Each is a part of the city's rich history.

Now, the histories of 105 of the city's most important trees have been preserved in a booklet called "Great Trees of New York City: A Guide." Written and photographed by Benjamin Swett, and published by the Parks & Recreation Department, "Great Trees" is part historical record, part treasure map. The book leads readers through all of the city's five boroughs, highlighting the oldest, the biggest, and the most interesting specimens.

Readers may be surprised to learn, for example, that: The Crack Willows in the Bronx were imported from Britain in Colonial times. (The trees were good for making charcoal during the manufacture of gunpowder.) The Central Park Mall has perhaps the world's largest collection of American Elms. The Yoshino Cherries in the Manhattan Reservoir were part of a 1912 gift from Japan - the same gift that provided cherry trees for the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Swett approaches his subject with reverence and affection. He writes about the trees as if they were not just living monuments but friends. His poetic prose contains directions, little-known facts, and historical context. "Great Trees" is the story of New York told in roots and bark.

For more information about "Great Trees of New York City," write to: Parks and Recreation, 830 Fifth Avenue, 10021. Copies are $12. An exhibition of photos from the book will be on display at An American Space Gallery on Madison Avenue until July 22.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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