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Long Island's landmark trees

Hey, great trees of Long Island, it’s time for your big bough.

In celebration of Arbor Day Friday, April 28, we asked local arborists and horticulturalists to tell us about the noblest leafy giants that have captured the imagination for their longevity, beauty and significance to local history. Here they are, from Oyster Bay to Orient.
 

American beech

The Beech tree, Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury,
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

LOCATION Old Westbury Gardens, outside the west porch of Westbury House

AGE 170-plus years

Springtime at Old Westbury Gardens in Old Westbury,
Credit: Old Westbury Gardens/Vincent Kish

HISTORY The American beech was already a mature specimen of 65 years old when the Phipps family purchased it in 1910 from Hicks in Westbury. Its roots were wrapped in wet fabric and it was transplanted to their estate. Nowadays, garden tours start under the beloved tree’s shade. “It’s at least 50 feet tall, but what’s most impressive is the diameter,” says Maura Brush, Old Westbury Gardens’ director of horticulture. 

The Buttonwood Tree

The "Declaration of Independence" sycamore tree stands in
Credit: Randee Daddona

SPECIES Sycamore

LOCATION North side of Main Road at Youngs Road, across from The Candyman sweet shop in Orient. 

AGE 240+ years

The "Declaration of Independence" sycamore tree stands in
Credit: Randee Daddona

HISTORY This stately sycamore was a sapling when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. It survived the American Revolution and went on to become a landmark, although not for anything particularly historic in a village known for preserving antiquity. “The people of Orient just love their old stuff, and everybody recognizes that the tree has been there since forever,” says Town of Southold historian Amy Folk. “Occasionally, someone will decorate it with a little American flag.”

Weeping Giant

Family dance, yoga and more - Expect shaking,
Credit: Randee Daddona

SPECIES European weeping beech

LOCATION Great lawn behind the manor house, Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Great River.

AGE Over 100 years

Left to right: Deborah Green, arborist with Bartlett
Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

HISTORY Planted by the Cutting family in the early 1900s, when the European beech sprouted on many a grand estate lawn, it now stands 60 feet wide at the base, and is circled by a 3-foot walkway. It’s said that temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees cooler under its canopy than on the adjacent arboretum grounds. The original tree was planted by the Cuttings, who had their own greenhouse and purchased plant material from the great horticulture explorers of the Gilded Age, says Nelson Sterner, arboretum director. As the tree aged, branches touched the ground and rooted, so now the original trunk is surrounded by multiple other trunks, Sterner said. 

The Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwood measures 100 feet tall, and 27
Credit: Marisol Diaz

SPECIES Metasequoia 

LOCATION Bailey Arboretum, Lattingtown, just off the walkway leading from the main entrance driveway to Bailey House.

AGE About 67 years 

Dawn Redwood measures 100 feet tall, and 27
Credit: Marisol Diaz

HISTORY At more than 100 feet tall, with a 27-foot-wide trunk, it’s the largest of the dawn redwoods on the arboretum grounds. It’s also a survivor. Dawn redwoods had been believed extinct until a 1941 Harvard University-sponsored exhibition found living specimens in Szechuan, China, and distributed their seeds to botanical gardens around the United States. The Bailey seeds were planted around 1950, says superintendent Michael Maron.

The Big White Oak

The large White Oak tree at Planting Fields
Credit: Johnny Milano

SPECIES White oak

LOCATION Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay. In the formal gardens near the rose garden and perennial border, just west of the main greenhouse and south of Coe Hall.

AGE About 300 years 

 

The large White Oak tree at Planting Fields
Credit: Johnny Milano

HISTORY The largest and oldest tree on the 409-acre arboretum property, it started out as part of the forest. It became “a landscape tree” during the Planting Fields estate era, says Vincent Simeone, a horticulturist and the director of the state park. “It has survived every storm. It’s a very noble-looking tree, very stately, and just dominates the landscape around it.” he says. “Oak trees are among the most important hardwood trees in our forests, and this tree is a wonderful representation of this species.” 

Readers’ choice: West Babylon landmark

The tree on the corner of Great East
Credit: Johnny Milano

Several Newsday readers answered our call for suggestions about noteworthy trees on Long Island, pointing out specimens revered for their size, foliage or overall grandeur. 

The most nominated tree: A (very) giant beech, pictured, that graces the corner of Great East Neck Road and Southard Avenue in West Babylon, its branches arching over the roadways.

Susan Duffin of Cutchogue notes a copper beech in the center of Cutchogue Cemetery. 

Landscape artist Joseph Finchum likes to paint a well-branched tree that’s on the corner of Islip Avenue (Route 111) and Alkier Street in Brentwood.

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