Sweetgum in West Fairmount Park

This mature sweetgum has been a part of our twice daily walk through the park for some years now. Its a one-of a kind up here on this piedmont plateau where Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition of 1876 was located.

Most commonly found on the sandy soils of the coastal plain, this tree was most likely planted about 100 years ago.

It had a long and happy life up here. It was fun watching it through the seasons. It had a rotting trunk and I knew that eventually it would have to come down.

It got one more chance to leaf out.

With progress came the bittersweet. The Parkside Edge project, a much awaited infrastructure investment of Park amenities was initiated this spring and the tree was finally taken down.

While we may not have the pleasure of a sweetgum tree nearby, many more trees are being planted and the urban park lifecycle continues on.




Striped Maple on Bear Mountain

Acer pensylvanicum

If you go up the Hudson River from the Statue of Liberty, along Manhattan Island, under the George Washington Bridge, and then up and up, along the grand, massive deck of the Palisades, under the Tappan Zee Bridge and even further until you reach the Bear Mountain Bridge you find yourself in the southernmost tip of the range of the Acer pensylvanicum, a memorable sight to behold indeed!

In search of the species, you must dock your boat and begin climbing the terrific Mountain! In the Spring you will enjoy the brisk hike, with considerable breezes at the top and an enchanting view of Manhattan Island, surrounded by hills and trees. Up here the great city is but a quiet view: one can imagine the region as it was in 1400 AD or perhaps in 14000 BC.

Looking North, the magnificent Hudson River beckons the explorer.  In search of the stunning Acer pensylvanicum, also commonly and appropriately called the Striped Maple, we botanical seekers continue along the well marked trails provided by our gracious host, the ever splendid State of New York.

Within minutes the Acer pensylvanicum has been found and verified!


A young specimen with fresh leaves and flowers!


A beautiful young leaf against the backdrop of the rocks. Bear Mountain has an interesting geological background going back over 1 billion years!

Resting on what is called the Storm King Granite are glacial deposits of large rocks of local origin on the top of the mountain.

The botanical history is relatively new compared to the geological. The two stories together, the Mountain and the Mountain Maple make for an evenings tale.

Above, the habit of the young tree.

Above, the picture of a Mountain Spring!

White Fringe Tree blooming along Centennial Lake, West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, May 6th 2017

Chionanthus virginicus

We spent some time this afternoon looking at a potential site for a natural lands/parks restoration project around the Centennial Lake. We spotted this Fringe tree in Bloom among a sea of vegetation, some of it invasives.

It is most likely an offspring of a cultivated tree from many years back, perhaps as far back as the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition of 1876!

Chionanthus virginicus

Here is a close up of the flowers.


Below is a specimen in recent cultivation along Concourse Lake, which is just across the street.