Hudson Square Standard Tree Species

Learn more about Hudson Square Standard Tree species! 

In honor of planting our 500th Hudson Square Standard (HSS) tree, we’ve designed a walking map where you can see the variety of tree species included in the HSS.

Bald Cypress (8 Clarkson Street)
A staple of Southern swamps, the Bald Cypress tree is a large slow-growing and long-lived tree and excellent choice for a street tree due to its low maintenance needs. This tree has inspired much poetry and prose over the centuries due to its melancholy and mysterious appearance, being referenced by famous writers John Wadsworth Longfellow and John Muir. 



London Plane Tree (175 Varick Street)
The London Plane Tree is believed to have resulted from a cross between the Oriental Plane Tree and the American sycamore. While the exact details of the tree’s origin have been lost over time, it was discovered that this hybrid could tolerate the smoke and grime of London. As a result, it has been widely distributed to cities throughout the moderate climate regions of the world for nearly 400 years. The London Plane is one of 50 Great British Trees that the Tree Council selected in 2002 in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s logo is a cross of the London plane and a maple leaf. It is prominently featured on signs and buildings in public parks across the city.

Common Hackberry (246 Spring Street, facing Varick)
The hackberry, while often forgotten by casual tree viewers, is commonly heralded by tree experts as “one tough tree.”  These trees thrive in a broad span of temperatures and on sites that vary from 14 to 60″ of annual rainfall. They can even stand up to strong winds and tolerate air pollution. The tree also attracts many butterfly species including American snout, hackberry, mourning cloak, and tawny emperor.

Little Leaf Linden (75 Varick, facing Watts)
Little leaf lindens have heart-shaped leaves with saw-toothed margins, and the flowers nectar and pollen attracts bees and other pollinators .There is evidence of the little leaf lindens being planted and used for social purposes as early as 760 A.D. In the Germanic and Norsecountries, the tree was known as a favorite of Freya (the goddess of love) and Frigga (the goddess of married love and the hearth). Maidens would “dance wildly” around the village linden, and women hoping for fertility would hug the tree or hang offerings in its branches. In Scandinavia, it was a good tree to avoid after dark because it was thought to be a favorite haunt of elves and fairies.

Japanese Zelkova (75 Varick, facing Canal)
The Japanese Zelkova is a good street and shade tree that has an appealing vase-shaped form with a rounded crown. The peeling bark on older trees exposes orange patches, which can be quite impressive.

In Japan, the wood of this tree is used for making Japanese drums, called wadaiko. The most desired drums are hollowed out of a trunk of a zelkova tree, but in many cases, the drum is fashioned from staves of keyaki wood, using the same method as when constructing a barrel. This tree’s wood is also used to make furniture. 

Ginkgo (250 Hudson, facing Dominick)
Hailed as “undoubtedly one of the most distinct and beautiful of all deciduous trees,” the ginkgo certainly stands out. Unique, fan-shaped leaves turn a stunning yellow color in the fall. It can tolerate many urban conditions including heat, air pollution, salt, and confined spaces. It’s considered a living fossil, with the earliest leaf fossils dating from 270 million years ago.. It was rediscovered in 1691 in China and was brought to the USA in the late 1700s. The seeds and leaves have been (and are still today) used in medicine throughout the world.

Extreme examples of the ginkgo’s tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where six trees growing between half a mile and one and quarter miles from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living organisms in the area to survive the blast. Although almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were killed, the ginkgos, though charred, survived and were soon healthy again.

In Japan, the wood of the Ginkgo is used to make furniture, chess boards, carving, and casks for making sake; the wood is fire-resistant and slow to decay. The ginkgo leaf is the symbol of the Urasenke school of Japanese tea ceremony. The tree is also the official tree of the Japanese capital city of Tokyo, and the symbol of Tokyo is a ginkgo leaf.

Sweet Gum (315 Hudson, facing Spring)
One of the main valuable forest trees in the southeastern United States, and is a popular ornamental tree in temperate climates. It is recognizable by the combination of its five-pointed star-shaped leaves (similar to maple leaves) and its hard, spiked fruits.

The first historical reference to the tree comes from the author and soldier, Don Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who accompanied Cortez in 1519 and was a witness to ceremonies between Cortez and Montezuma, who both partook of a liquid amber extracted from a sweet gum tree. The tree itself was first noticed and recorded by the historian Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in 1542. Once commercially popular for soaps, adhesives and pharmaceuticals, today its wood is valuable for fine furniture and interior finishing.

Willow Oak (395 Hudson)
The Willow Oak is most commonly found growing on lowland floodplains, often along streams and are primarily used as ornamental trees.  Willow oaks are distinguished from most other oaks by its leaves, which are shaped like willow leaves, with an entire untoothed and unlobed margin; they are bright green above, paler beneath, usually hairless but sometimes downy beneath. The oldest tree in Hudson Square is a Willow Oak tree being at least 40 years old.

It is one of the most prolific producers of acorns, an important food tree for squirrels, birds, and other animals in the forest. The tree starts acorn production around 15 years of age, earlier than many oak species.

Kentucky Coffee Tree (Greenwich + Houston)
With its reputation as a tough species, the Kentucky coffeetree is an excellent choice for parks, golf courses, and other large areas. It is also widely used as an ornamental or street tree.

This tree gets its name because early Kentucky settlers noticed the resemblance of its seeds to coffee beans. In earlier times, its wood was used in the construction of railway sleeper cars. The seed may be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee beans; however, unroasted pods and seeds are toxic. The wood from the tree is used by cabinet makers and carpenters

In addition to use as a food, the seeds of Kentucky coffeetree were used by Native Americans for ceremonial and recreational purposes. Seeds were used as dice in games of chance that were common in eastern tribes. The seeds were also used in jewelry. The importance of the Kentucky coffeetree to Native Americans undoubtedly contributed to its dispersal.

The 500th tree being planted in the Hudson Square Standard is a Kentucky Coffee Tree!




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