Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Near the southeast corner of Central Park there is a 4-acre hill called the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. This land was closed to the public and preserved as a bird sanctuary by NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in 1934, and in 1986 renamed in memory of George Harvey Hallett Jr., a birdwatcher, naturalist, and civic leader. By closing its to people, Central Park intended for the site to naturalize back into a rich and diverse woodland... but with out horticulture maintenance, the hill actually became a mono culture of two trees; the invasive "Tree of Heaven" (Ailanthus altissim) and native Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). Around 2001 the park decided to end its experiment of naturalization, and actively in-rich the habitat with more natives, and complete removal of invasive species such as the Tree of Heaven.  Now the sanctuary is by far more healthy and diverse than it was in the past, supporting various wildlife populations. Last week I went on a tour of Hallett Nature Sanctuary to see whats growing for my self. The canopy is still dominated by Black Cherries (which is good, being such a beneficial tree), but there is also an array of other trees like Ash, Red Oak, Holly, Honey Locust, Elm, some Grey Birch... under story trees such as Service Berry and Flowering Dogwood, and a mix of shrubs; Azaleas, Low Bush Blueberry, Sweet Pepper Bush, Rhododendron, etc. I believe there is an important lesson in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and that is: we have to actively tend to habitats for better biodiversity, other wise invasive species will dominate disturbed sites. It would be fantastic if left alone, places like central park would return to an ecosystem once found there 500 years ago, but this not true, and "monsters" we have unleashed can only be controlled by us. 

Starting next month, every first Tuesday of the spring/summer/fall months, Hallett Nature Sanctuary will open to the public, def pay it a visit!

Heres a good video to watch in regard to Central Park Woodland Restoration 

My Little Brother Coyote

Last week I attended a NYC Park Ranger tour in Van Cortland Park about the established population of coyotes in the Bronx. It snowed the night before so I knew there could be tracks, and surely in front of the oldest house in the Bronx (The Van Cortland House; where George Washington stayed several night before retreating from the British during the American Revolutionary War), I found a little trail of coyote foot prints!  

Van Courtland House ©M.Y.

Van Courtland House ©M.Y.

Coyote foot prints ©M.Y.

Coyote foot prints ©M.Y.

Coyote foot prints ©M.Y.

Coyote foot prints ©M.Y.

Coyote foot prints ©M.Y.

Coyote foot prints ©M.Y.

This is a special time in our cities history, and every year we see more wildlife taking refuge in our parks. The coyote should honored and respected, as we are a city immigrants who once borrowed this land from him.

Here is an Image I took of little boy holding a snow ball in front of Van Courtlands coyote statue, memorializes the first coyote confirmed to have been seen in New York City since 1946, a female found dead in 1995 on the Major Deegan Expressway.

Here is an Image I took of little boy holding a snow ball in front of Van Courtlands coyote statue, memorializes the first coyote confirmed to have been seen in New York City since 1946, a female found dead in 1995 on the Major Deegan Expressway.

Image from nature cam, capturing young coyote and mother coyote in Van Courtland Park

Image from nature cam, capturing young coyote and mother coyote in Van Courtland Park

To finish this post, I want to leave you with a song; a segment from Pete Seeger's 1960's Rainbow Quest show, where, with special guest Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger sings a powerful conservationist, Native American coyote song: My Little Brother Coyote. Love it!

Witch Hazel

For most the year Witch Hazel is rather mundane, but certainly knows how to make a presence while others hibernate: exploding with yellow blooms that shine brightest on grey, cool March days. Really the only shrub in Eastern North America to exhibit such color at this time! Def a unique attribute to any landscape. 

Two Witch Hazels by the South Street Seaport ©M.Y.

Two Witch Hazels by the South Street Seaport ©M.Y.

Under the Brooklyn Bridge ramp, in lower Manhattan next to Pass University ©M.Y.

Under the Brooklyn Bridge ramp, in lower Manhattan next to Pass University ©M.Y.

 Prospect Park ©M.Y.

 Prospect Park ©M.Y.

St. Lukes ©M.Y.

St. Lukes ©M.Y.

And here is the grandest Witch Hazel in the New York City! My favorite, the Witch Hazel of St. Lukes courtyard garden (not the best photo but you get the idea). I used to maintain this property under Susan Sipos Gardens of Distinction. Susan manages several properties in the West Village, including the well known Jefferson Market Garden.

This specimen at St.Lukes is at least 12ft tall, with a beautiful upright stature and a strong bloom, suggesting if you give them southern exposure they will give you a spectacle. But I also believe its important to provide some shade, especially to the roots. In this garden a wall and fence keep the lower half of this Witch Hazel cool, while making the plant grow up and over, for full sun exposure (best of both worlds).  If I ever get the chance, I'd love to create a maze of low-wall, court yard gardens, designed to have this effect on plants. 

Interesting Fact: The Mohegans are believed to be the first to show English settlers how to use Y-shaped witch hazel sticks for dowsing, an ancient method for finding underground water.

Prospect Park ©M.Y.

Prospect Park ©M.Y.

Here's a beautiful botanical Illustration by Mary Eaton.

Here's a beautiful botanical Illustration by Mary Eaton.