PLACES TO EXPLORE
NYC Parks "Forever Wild" sites- Nature in New York City
There are 48 Forever Wild Nature Preserves in NYC’s five boroughs—more than 8,700 wild acres that include towering forests, vibrant wetlands, and expansive meadows. Almost every site is accessible by public transit, and many have trails, nature centers, and public facilities. At the website, you’ll find trail maps, driving and public transit directions, and descriptions of the preserves.
Torrey Botanical Society Field Trips
TBS offers free botanical walks from April through October throughout the NYC-metro area. These trips are for general study and monitoring of the flora within a park or any place of botanic interest. While most trips emphasize plant study, other aspects of natural history are also discussed. We are not a hiking club and walking distances are usually not great. Frequent attendance on the field trips is one of the best ways to get to know the local flora.
Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Staten Island's land conservation organization leads free walks for people of all ages throughout the island's natural areas with experienced naturalists.
Virtual Botanical Walk
Enjoy a virtual tour of Corson’s Brook Woods in Staten Island where you’ll encounter the early spring wildflowers that bloom the end of April before the trees leaf out. Click here for the tour.
back to top
Stuvesant Cove Park
Found from 18 to 22nd Streets east of the FDR, Stuyvesant Cove Park is green in the most literal sense with an ever expanding offering of plants that are indigenous to the region.
Native Plant Garden in Union Square Park
Conceived and designed the garden at East 15th Street and Union Square West in NYC. Featuring plants native to the New York City area, the garden is a habitat haven for birds, bees, and butterflies, and engages New Yorkers with their local flora. The garden also reflects our local natural heritage, is a model for thoughtful, ecological designs in public parks, and encourages place-based nature education in our schools.
The Butterfly Project
The volunteers of Butterfly Project work to ensure that NYC will always be home to diverse populations of our region's butterflies, bees, moths and more by encouraging, distributing and planting native flora in community gardens throughout the city.
Native Plant Display Garden in Union Square Park
Located at East 15th Street and Union Square West, the garden features plants native to the New York City area. Showcasing that historically grew wild in lower Manhattan, it is home to large-leaved trillium, wild columbine, witch hazel, and maidenhair fern. It is a habitat haven for birds, bees, and butterflies, and engages New Yorkers with their local flora. The garden also reflects our local natural heritage, is a model for thoughtful, ecological designs in public parks, and encourages place-based nature education in our schools.
To see the species being planting in the garden, click here.
Want to know more? Listen to the garden’s designer, Mariellé Anzelone, extol the virtues of wildflowers. To listen to the audio file, click here.
back to top
Wildflowers in the Field and Forest
By Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie
The most comprehensive field guide for the northeastern U.S. and Canada, with descriptive text and range maps on one side facing pages of color photos on the other.
Illustrated Field Guide to Shrubs and Woody Vines of Long Island
By G. E. Lotowycz and B. H. Conolly
This book focuses on the woody plants that most field guides gloss over. An unexpected but welcome inclusion is the sub-shrubs, and the text reflects the changing nature of our natural areas through its listing of species’ frequencies and inclusion of naturalized exotics. All of this is filtered through the geographic scope of Long Island.
A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter: Herbaceous Plants of Northeastern North America
By Carol Levine
A comprehensive guide covering nearly 400 herbaceous plants in detail, with briefer notes on another 200. Illustrated with beautiful, accurate line drawings with descriptions of fruit, stems, leaves, habit, and habitat to help identify the plant.
back to top
Gardening with Native Plants
Books and Websites
Focuses on urban ecological issues, especially native flora. Has extensive resources and information on plants growing wild in NYC and how to get started.
Gardening with NYC Native Plants
This brochure gives an overview of gardening with local wildflowers including why garden with natives, lists of wildflowers for different garden situations and how to attract wildlife. (click title to download) You may also want to download our fliers to learn how to Make Your Garden "Green" With Native Plants-- there is one for Sunny areas, and one for Shady areas.
Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants – Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guides
This link gives native alternatives to invasive plants for use in gardens, yards, and natural plantings. The list is organized by horticultural plant group: trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants, and grasses.
Going Native: Biodiversity in Our Own Backyard - Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guide
Top designers show how to combine exquisite wildflowers and other native species in spectacular plantings that provide a refuge for beleaguered plants and animals. Features scores of spectacular native plants and garden plans for every region.
Distinguishing Natives from Invasives
Mistaken Identity? Invasive Plants and their Native Look-alikes: An Identification Guide for the Mid-Atlantic is a recently published, full-color, 62-page booklet. The purpose of the work is to facilitate correct identification of confusingly similar invasive and native plant species. Targeted at gardeners, land managers, conservationists, and all others interested in plants, this booklet covers over 20 invasive species and their native look-alikes. Download a copy of Mistaken Identity here.
A Guide to Native Plants of the New York City Region
By Margaret B. Gargiullo
Geared specifically for landscape architects, land managers, and restoration ecologists, this book offers practical advice on the indigenous flora growing in the metropolitan area.
Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East
By Carolyn Summers
An ecological approach to landscape design for the layperson, with design ideas for native trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and showy substitutes for invasive plants.
back to top
A list of dozens of native plant nurseries in the NYC region
Gowanus Nursery - Brooklyn, NY
A great resource within the five boroughs. The owner is very helpful and they have a surprising number indigenous wildflowers.
Catskill Native Nursery - Kerhonkson, NY
Herbaceous (perennials), shrubs & trees
Fort Pond Native Plant Nursery - Montauk, NY
Natives and non - a very large selection with excellent specimen trees and shrubs
The Plantsmen Nursery - Ithaca, NY
Trees, shrubs, vines, wildflowers, ferns - and a very nice website
Edge of the Woods - Fogelsville, PA
Over 300 species of nursery propagated native trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns, perennials and wildflowers
Greenbelt Native Plant Center - Staten Island, NY
The Center is the only municipal native-plant nursery in the country. It is a 13-acre greenhouse, nursery and seed bank complex owned and operated by the City of New York Parks & Recreation on Staten Island. The center has spent two decades raising specimens of the city’s indigenous flora for use in local restoration and replanting projects.
back to top
Botanical Clubs & Societies
Torrey Botanical Society
Connecticut Botanical Society
Long Island Botanical Society
New Jersey Native Plant Society
New York Flora Association
See what grows where on their excellent New York Flora Atlas.
back to top
The Forests and Wetlands of New York City
By Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
An account of New York City before the City, the book chronicles the evolution of the city's topography, geography, and flora as humans began to settle and impose changes on the natural landscape.
Natural History of New York City
By John Kieran
A knowledgeable nature guide to New York City, adequately summed up in the subtitle, "A book for sidewalk naturalists everywhere".
Wild New York
By Margaret Mittlebach & Michael Crewdson
Showing that New York is more than just the flash and dazzle associated with Times Square or the skyscrapers of the Financial District, this guide details biological sights of all five boroughs, with site recommendations for each.
An Islanded Nature: Natural Area Conservation and Restoration in Western Staten Island
By Peter P. Blanchard, Paul Kerlinger, and Mark Stein
Created by the Harbor Herons Project, this report includes maps, photographs, drawings, plant lists, and more in the study of open space conservation on Staten Island.
The Power Broker
By Robert Caro
Robert Moses completely reshaped the face of New York City, devastating much of the open space and native flora in the process. While he started the country's first state-wide system of parks, he also introduced many non-native species into the landscape (including the invasive Norway maple). This Pulitzer Prize-winning history explains why and how Moses' legacy still casts large shadows today.
Days Afield on Staten Island
By William T. Davis
Originally written in 1894, the book provides a startling contrast to today's Staten Island, as it overflows with accounts of flourishing native orchids, wild mink, and flying squirrels.
Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks
By Joel Meyerowtiz
Meyerowtiz was commissioned by NYC Department of Parks & Recreation to document the city’s green spaces, the first time this was done since the 1930s. They granted him special access to areas closed to the public, like Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and he snapped shots of woodlands, streams and marshes—the hidden splendor of the city.
back to top
New York Metropolitan Flora Project
Scientists at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden are undertaking the most comprehensive study ever of the plant biodiversity in metropolitan New York. Studying the vegetation changes in highly populated areas is critical to understanding the future of life in our rapidly urbanizing world.
NYC Native Plant Conservation Initiative
Before urbanization, many of New York City's native plant species had large, contiguous populations. Today, populations are apt to be smaller with greater distances between them. Loss of open space due to development makes these local populations of native plants vulnerable to extirpation (local extinction). In fact, plant populations are declining throughout the five boroughs. (See NY Metropolitan Flora Project above). This collaborative study will examine whether local plant species are maintaining their genetic variability and population fitness. This information will inform management strategies designed to reverse these trends. Begun in 2008, the pilot program focuses on 34 species of plants that are infrequently found in New York City.
Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada
This new project, hosted at The New York Botanical Garden, aims to empower people to identify about 4500 species of plants growing wild in a vast region of northeastern North America (all or portions of 22 states of the U.S.A. and five provinces of Canada). At its core, this project is a complete revision of the classic Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada by Gleason & Cronquist (The New York Botanical Garden Press, 1991). Like its forerunner, the new Manual will be a compact book useful in the field. As well, the Manual will be accompanied by a website with additional resources on plant identification, nomenclature, habitats, and geographic distribution.
Bees are the most important pollinators in the Northeastern U.S., and there are more than 200 species of bees that live right here in New York City. NYC Beewatchers aims to: 1) identify which areas of New York City have good pollinator service (as determined by how quickly bees show up to pollinate flowers at various locations throughout the city); 2) increase understanding of bee distribution; 3) raise public awareness of native bees; and 4) improve park management practices to benefit native bees.
Join us as a citizen scientist to help gather data on our local indigenous pollinators!
Urban Ecotype Study
The Urban Ecotype Study is a collaborative three–year research project to determine if some native plant species are genetically adapting—evolving—to conditions on harsh urban sites such as brownfields and former landfills. And while that is a useful and exciting scientific question to answer, we are equally interested in the practical implications. If we can demonstrate that this is true, we will develop restoration plant materials derived from these tough urban plant populations for use in re–vegetating such sites with native ecosystems. The use of proven appropriate plant materials will maximize the success of revegetation efforts and will add back valuable missing pieces of functioning and diverse habitats to our city.
back to top