Monday, October 17, 2005

A red-faced writer

An American Linden leaf

A Bradford Callery Pear leaf
An embarrassed Marie

A few days ago I wrote the following letter to Regina Alvarez, the Woodlands Manager of the Central Park Conservancy:

Hi Regina, I see on the Central Park website that the Grand Army Plaza falls under the jurisdiction of the Central Park Conservancy. I'm trying to trace the history of the trees that form a half-circle around the Pulitzer Fountain in the Grand Army Plaza. Right now there are 10 Lindens there. But there seem to have been sycamores there sometime in the past. Do you have an easy way to track this down?

Thanks a million, Marie

I received the following answer.

Hi Marie -
Those trees down at Grand Army Plaza are actually Bradford Callery Pears, not Lindens. Neil says they were planted in 1979 and, yes, they replaced London Planes (which are Sycamore hybrids). I hope this is helpful.
Needless to say Regina's kind response filled me with chagrin. After going on and on about how writers feel duty-bound to get their facts right, I seem to have gotten every single fact in my reportage wrong!

So here we are: the Lindens that shelter the huge flocks of grackles and starlings at the Pulitzer Fountain are not Lindens. They are Bradford Callery Pears. And the sycamores that obviously surrounded the fountain when E.B. White wrote his poem were not exactly sycamores; they were London Planes, hybridized sycamores.

The lesson: Look everything up, and then double check. Now I have done so, and find the following on an Internet website:

"Completed in 1916, Grand Army Plaza is considered one of the most successful urban plazas in the country. It is a focal point of midtown Manhattan, offering an elegant transition to the Park from nearby skyscrapers. Grand Army Plaza is, in fact, two plazas — each a semicircle bisected by Central Park South. Both halves are surrounded on their curvilinear ends by Bradford Callery pear trees, which provide a natural frame. The split plaza was inspired by the design of the Place de la Concorde in Paris."

PS Wait a minute. I didn't get the sycamore ID wrong. E.B. White did. They were actually London Planes. Now I feel a little better.

PPS In any event, whatever the trees were, and are, one replaced the other and the mystery is finally solved.