Tree’s removal cuts deep: Botanic Garden members cry foul over plan to replace old plant with young sapling

Tree’s removal cuts deep: Botanic Garden members cry foul over plan to replace old plant with young sapling
Andrew Porter

They’re bark-ing mad!

Some Brooklyn Botanic Garden fans blasted its staff for recently chopping down a stately old London plane tree in favor of a younger plant, claiming the green thumbs’ switcheroo reeks of arboreal ageism.

“This is ageist,” said Andrew Porter, a garden member who lives in Brooklyn Heights. “There’s a lot of old stuff there that people really like. If you tear down that stuff, it’s the same thing as saying, ‘There’s a 62-year-old guy working for this company, and we can replace him with someone who’s 23.’ ”

The tree grew among some of the park’s conifers, a collection of seed-bearing species that includes pines, junipers, and other plants, and stood just outside its Fragrance Garden, where green-space stewards encourage patrons to touch the flora.

Younger visitors in particular flocked to the mature specimen, because it boasted a cavernous hollow in its trunk where they could escape from mom, dad, or other full-sized chaperones, according to Porter.

“The hollow made it special, because kids could get in and adults couldn’t,” he said.

But the crevice also made the tree hazardous, arborists concluded last fall after an assessment showed the opening in its trunk made it susceptible to collapse, a garden spokeswoman said, and staff began work to remove the plant this spring by chopping off its upper branches.

“This particular one, the base was hollow and was not able to support the canopy,” said Elizabeth Reina-Longoria, who did not immediately respond when asked for the tree’s age.

And although it stood near public areas of the green space, the ancient London plane was behind a roped-off part of the garden where pedestrians of any age shouldn’t wander, according to Reina-Longoria, who said confusion over the tree’s location likely inspired the outpouring of concern from members — which prompted garden bigwigs to send not one, but two separate e-mails explaining why it allegedly had to get the axe.

“Some folks thought it was a tree house, but it never served that purpose,” she said. “It’s on a steep slope, I think there might be confusion about what the tree was.”

Plus, London planes are not that interesting, the spokeswoman argued, and Brooklynites don’t have to pay the garden’s $15 admission fee to see one — they can simply walk down a street or visit parkland across the city.

“They’re very, very common,” she said.

The tree’s stump is still rooted in Kings County’s horticultural reserve, but workers will uproot it sometime in the coming weeks, ahead of the London plane’s replacement by a more exotic — younger — specimen, according to Reina-Longoria.

“A new conifer tree will be placed there that will diversify our collection,” she said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Holed up: Kids found a refuge from their nosey parents inside a hollow in the trunk of the tree, but arborists at the horticultural reserve claimed the hideaway could cause it to collapse, leading stewards to cut the plant down.
Andrew Porter