Plant the 9-11 Survivor Tree This Spring

by Patrick on September 14, 2011

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The Survivor Tree Re-blooms At Ground Zero

I’d like you to know I wrote this posting on the evening of the 9-11  remembrances.  The Survivor Tree from 9-11 was plucked from the wreckage of the World Trade Center carnage. It’s a Callery  pear that was planted at the WTC in the early 1970s. It’s a true survivor since it wasn’t discovered with a blackened trunk and snapped roots until October in 20o1.  Who can imagine how it survived without a reliable source of water. I assume the rain reached it through the carnage. It was only 8′ tall after the fall of the Twin Towers crushed it.  The tree was nursed back to health by the Van Cortland Nursery in the NYC  Park Department.  When the tree was replanted in December 22, 2010, it was 32′ tall with a ceremony presided by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said the tree symbolizes the city’s and country’s resilience. The tree was joined by hundreds of other Callery pears in the new landscape.

New Tree Installiation

I can only imagine that the variety of Callery ornamental pear tree is the ‘Bradford’ due its popularity in 1970s which still continues today. Now I know the name’ Bradford’ is a bipolar tree with huge fans and detractors. In the Midwest it’s the earliest tree to bloom to harbor the beginning of  Spring.  They top out at around 35′ feet tall. But due to an irregular branching habit the tree easily succumbs t0 damage in icy or heavy snow weather. The problem is the tree sends out way too many branches from the trunk. The branches compete with each until one or more of the branches are squeezed out creating a liability for winter weather damage. Skillful pruning can relieve the pressure on the branches to allow for strong limb development. I’m sure the trees at Ground Zero are under the care of skillful arborists. Calleries by their nature are soft wooded trees making the survival of the Ground Zero tree seem even more implausible.

'Chanticleer Pear'

If you want to plant a Callery to memorialize the WTC bombing for you or your family, there is a better variety named ‘Chanticleer’ which is much narrower tree coming in at 40′ tall and 15′ wide. You can see in the image at right that the  ‘Chanticleer’ doe have a more narrow shape than than the  ‘Bradford’.  It  is not a new hybrid but was discovered in Cleveland, OH.  in the 1950s.  The narrow shape makes the tree less susceptible to winter damage. I’d be willing to wager the Ground Zero trees are ‘Chanticleer’ especially when the narrower shape will allow for a more dense planting of trees to provide the canopy the original designers were looking for in the space. According to my source  for last year’s Underused Shade Trees newspaper column, Chris Thompson from Audrie Seeley Garden Center in Kansas City MO,  ‘Chanticleer’ has become a favorite of c0mmercial landscape architects in this area.  But check in with your local nurseryman to see if it will be in stock next Spring or if you need to pre-order  it. For the entire column,  click the Patrick’s Picks category in the right side bar.

If you plant Chanticleer, I think it would be great to get your older kids involved with the planting.  Tell them the remarkable story of the Survivor Tree and remind them through the years that this is your family’s remembrance of the over 3,000 innocent people who lost their lives on that tragic day that  led us into two wars with over 2,500 casualties to date. I wouldn’t be surprised if they plant their own Survivor tree for their families one day. I can’t think of a better reason to plant a tree.

Patrick's Garden

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