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Dogwood trees to once again bloom in Upper Brookville

Residents chipped in to purchase 175 of the pink and white flowering trees that were once plentiful in the village until disease killed hundreds of them decades ago.

Ginny and Frederic Kunken are seen Friday with

Ginny and Frederic Kunken are seen Friday with one of two dogwood trees they planted by the curbside of their home in Brookville. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

A fungal tree disease in the 1970s and ’80s wiped out most of the hundreds of dogwoods that each spring dotted Upper Brookville with a riotous burst of white and pink flowers.

Now the village is working with residents to bring dogwoods back, starting with 125 trees that were planted on residents’ lawns in May.

“They’re very beautiful to look at and they bring back the charm” of the pre-tree-disease North Shore village, said Helen Solomon, 56, a member of the village’s beautification committee, which spearheaded the dogwoods effort. Trees also increase property values, she said.

Residents obtained two 7-foot-tall North Carolina-grown dogwood saplings by contributing a minimum $200 to the village’s beautification fund, said Mayor Elliot Conway. The contributions — some of which were well above $200 — covered the village’s cost of buying the trees at a volume discount. Fifty more trees will be available in the autumn, he said.

The village requires they be planted within 50 yards of a road and be visible from passing vehicles, so all village residents and other passers-by could enjoy the trees, Conway said.

Jonathan Lehrer, chairman of the urban horticulture and design department of Farmingdale State College, said he’s unaware of any other municipality on Long Island that has mounted a concerted effort to bring back the dogwoods.

Cornus florida dogwoods are indigenous to Long Island, but the dogwood anthracnose disease spread throughout the Island and killed most of them, Lehrer said. The dogwoods Upper Brookville bought are less susceptible to the disease, he said.

Residents chose between stellar pinks — a hybrid between cornus florida and highly anthracnose-resistant Asian kousa dogwoods — and Appalachian spring dogwoods, which are a cultivated variety of cornus florida that are more resistant to the disease than most of the dogwoods native to the Island.

Dogwoods flourished throughout Long Island for centuries, but residents recall how Upper Brookville had an especially high number.

Ginny Kunken remembers how after she and her husband moved from Bayside, Queens, to Upper Brookville in 1974, they were wowed by the “absolutely breathtakingly beautiful” sight of “pink and white everywhere” when the trees bloomed in the spring.

“It was magical,” she said. “It was like a fairyland. We had 17 dogwood trees on our property alone.”

The Kunkens last month planted two of the dogwoods purchased under the village program and are looking forward to seeing them — and dogwoods across the village — bloom next spring.

“It’s going to be so nice to see this come back,” she said.

DOGWOODS IN UPPER BROOKVILLE

The Village of Upper Brookville offered residents two dogwood saplings in exchange for a minimum $200 contribution to the village beautification fund. The village distributed the trees in May.

Upper Brookville offered two choices:

  • Stellar pink dogwoods, pink-flowering trees that are a hybrid of the cornus florida dogwood — trees native to Long Island that were mostly wiped out by dogwood anthracnose disease in the 1970s and ’80s — and Asian kousa dogwoods, which are resistant to the fungal disease.
  • Appalachian spring dogwoods, a white-flowered cultivated variety of cornus florida that is more resistant to the disease than the cornus florida native to the Island.

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