A-maize-ing! Corn growing on Gowanus Expressway

Aww shucks: Botanists say the plant growing on the shoulder of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway is probably corn.
Vladimir Vizner

There is more than a kernel of truth to this one.

Corn is likely growing on the Gowanus Expressway, a botanist from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden said. A lone stalk appears to have cropped up on the shoulder of the Staten Island-bound highway near 39th Street, according to photos taken on Sept. 21 and reviewed by experts. The elevated roadway that cuts through industrial Sunset Park may seem an odd place for the famously rural grain to grow, but hominy finds harmony amid gritty conditions, an expert said.

“Corn prefers deep and fertile soil, but it is possible that a stray plant could grow even in unlikely spaces, such as on the Gowanus Expressway,” said Melanie Sifton, vice-president of horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Still, the rustic flora may have gotten there by a means city slickers know well — littering, she said.

“If this plant is indeed corn, it could possibly have grown from a kernel or unpopped piece of popcorn that blew onto the road — or was even thrown from a car,” said Sifton.

Bay Ridgite Vladimir Vizner saw the vegetation while heading home from work and was so surprised he had to snap a picture, he said.

“I was shocked,” said Vizner. “It’s definitely not something you expect to see growing up there.”

Confused, Vizner posted the photo to Facebook saying that if anyone could confirm it was maize, he was all ears. Some farmer friends wrote back in the affirmative, he said.

Corn is not native to Brooklyn, though people have grown it here for generations. Lawmakers even tried to make the grain the state vegetable in 2011, though the measure was shucked.

The Gowanus Expressway greenery could even bear fruit, according to Sifton, but Vizner said he is not anxious to make a meal of the yield.

“Let me put it this way: When I fish in the area, I don’t eat the fish I catch — I throw them back in,” he said. “I have no desire to try that [corn].”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2517. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
For reference: Corn in its natural habitat — Montana.
Associated Press / Glenn Landberg

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