Plant the 9-11 Survivor Tree This Spring

by Patrick Muir on September 14, 2011


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

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet, The Queen of Seaford September 14, 2011 at 7:45 am

Nice posting. We were in Virginia during Hurricane Irene and it is amazing to me to see all the Bradford pears planted in the Tidewater area. There were few trees that escaped the damaging winds.
I had not heard the story of the Survivor Tree. Amazing resilience. Somewhere in my notes from a lecture for Master Gardeners is a list of other Callery Pear trees to replace the Bradford, for some reason Chanticleer is the only name that pops into my head now.


Patrick September 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hey Janice,
Thanks for stopping by. It’s sad there are so many thousands of Bradfords out their vulnerable to utter destruction. I haven’t had one split on me but had one removed as soon as we moved into our last house. i wasn’t going to be living with a time bomb.
Glad you liked my reflective post.


Mum September 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Very interesting Pat.


Patrick September 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Thanks, Mum


Donna September 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm

This was the most interesting post I have read related to 911 this year. I too never heard of the survivor tree and I too think it odd it would be a pear. Thank you for posting about this. My pear is a Red Spire, but was planted just before 2001. I will be looking at it a little differently and much more affectionately from now on.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I’m not familiar with ‘Red Spire’. Well put to look at it with much more affection.Thanks for stopping by.


GirlSprout September 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm

A very thoughtful post. I’m a huge fan of Bradford pears, but have learned more about its shortcomings this year. It’s good to know that Chanticleer is an alternative. Like Donna, I will be more circumspect when I see them around town.


Patrick September 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I don’t remember when I first heard about the Survivor Tree. Even though I live in Kansas, NY Times is my home page so I probably saw it there. I hope more people will learn about it in the future because it is a remarkable story.


Wendy September 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm

That is very cool. I’m glad the city took care of it once it was discovered. It is a real survivor!


Patrick September 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm

The NYC Park Department pulled off a gift for generations.


Karen September 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Hello Patrick, who would have ever thought a pear tree could have survived the wreckage? This is truly amazing. We never planted any pear trees for some odd reason, I guess because I had read of their propensity to fail. I do love their blooms, though, they are so showy. It will be interesting to follow the progress of the trees at the site. Planting a Survivor Tree is a wonderful idea for everyone.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm

It’s a good thing you never planted a pear. No heartbreaks that way. The blooms are nice but don’t get too close. Why? They stink to high heaven.


Christina September 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Great post, it is good to realise that nature 8with a helping hand) can overcome! Christina


Patrick September 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Thanks for your appreciation of the post. It’s the most important and rewarding posting since getting started in blogging. I hope it touches a lot of hearts.


Pauline September 15, 2011 at 1:57 am

What a beautiful, thoughtprovoking post and a wonderful inspiration to us all to plant a memorial tree, thank you Patrick.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Thank you for your very kind words. I do hope some people will plant the tree.


alison@thisbloominglife September 15, 2011 at 2:17 am

I’ve got one Chanticleer, and lots of Pyrus ussuriensis – Manchurian Pear. They can snap but I love them, and they are out in the parkland. Just couldn’t help myself. After our bushfires, it was amazing what regenerated.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I’m not familiar with the Manchurian but wouldn’t want to have anything to do with anything with the potential of splitting. Talk about the resiliency of nature to recover from a brush fire. Has the drought broken in your area?


Greggo September 15, 2011 at 3:15 am

Nice post. There seems to be a lot of caleryana in the wild around here and not the hybrids types either. I have to take second looks when I drive by one.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 11:58 am

Yo Greggo,
Interesting there’s a lot in the wild. Is this due to bird droppings where they got the seed from neighborhood gardens and commercial landscaping?


The Sage Butterfly September 15, 2011 at 4:46 am

What an amazing survival story! These stories are always so inspiring. I moved a small volunteer maple one year. I knew when I dug it up I had cut the long tap root because it was too long to dig out, but I thought I would give it a try. The leaves drooped and died, and it looked as if it was a goner. After about a month, new leaf buds began to form, and the tree came out of its shock. That is not as inspiring as a 9/11 tree survival, but I am always inspired by the resilience of nature. Great post!


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 11:54 am

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the resiliency of the natural world but this was the most touching I have heard of to date.


Denise September 15, 2011 at 5:06 am

I had not heard of the survivor tree either. Enjoyed this post tremendously, very uplifting.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 11:42 am

Glad you enjoyed the post so much. Thanks for stopping by.


Jen September 15, 2011 at 7:20 am

Hi Patrick, this is such a interesting, and well written story, honestly I think that it should be submitted to publications. I have no idea that there was a pear tree that survived, it’s nice to read such a uplifting story.

You were wondering if I was on Flicker, I used to be, but have not been for absolutely ages. I do have a web site, http://www.muddybootdreams. And I have picassa albums. Love your blog.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

Thanks for your very kind words. I write a column in the local gardening magazine. My goal is to start writing for national pubs in the future..


Janet Smart September 15, 2011 at 8:06 am

That is the first I have heard about the survivor tree. That is probably the trees that people plant a lot of in our area. They bloom real pretty in the spring, but have no pears. I always thought it was a waste to have a pear tree that didn’t product fruits. But, that is just my opinion. A number of our neighbors have them in their yard and they are very pretty. They are not very strong, though, every time we have a bad storm, half of the tree ends up splitting off. Then, they usually leave them as is or have them cut down and plant again.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 11:32 am

The sad part is when one splits, you have to think what else could have been there instead which would have stood the test of time.


Melanie September 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I saw that story somewhere last week too. .too awesome!! We’re taking a long weekend vacation to NYC this fall, and I can’t wait to see the tree and new park in person!


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I hope you blog about your trip. Would love to see pix. Thanks for stopping by.


Rose September 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I had never heard the story of this survivor tree before; thanks so much for such an informative and inspiring post. This truly is a remarkable story, and I can see why it would be such an inspiring symbol to New Yorkers. Our local arborists recommend not planting Bradford pears anymore, because of so much damage in recent years from ice storms and strong winds. Anyone wanting to plant one should take your advice and research the best cultivars for their area.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I’m glad you were inspires by my post.. I really wish some of our nurseries would make a bold move and stop selling Bradfords and substituting with another Callery.. Biggest drawback in doing so is due to the sheer volume of Bradfords in the market place, Bradfords are the most affordable tree and in this economy, that’s a big selling point.


Marguerite September 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Hi Patrick, like many others I had never heard this story before. How interesting to see that this tree survived and as you point out without any watering or help initially. I always wonder how those great trees survive in a city, especially one as large as New York with all that concrete. Nature just simply won’t be kept down.


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Yes, nature simply won’t be put down in general and in this case specifically. I’m so happy to share this story with the keenest of gardeners like yourself.


Jayne September 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I never thought a pear tree would be the survivor! ‘Chanticleer’ sounds like a great alternative to a tree that is so lovely but has had its problems – thank you for keeping us informed!


Patrick September 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Yes, a very soft wooded tree would not be cast in such a role. Just adds to this remarkable story. Thanks for stopping by.


Linniew September 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Nice blog Patrick! Like just about everyone above, I had not heard the story of the pear tree. (Now if this were MY blog someone would be suggesting that I made it up– I will not do such a thing to YOU.) It is truly a wonderful story, and underlines the notion that Nature is what’s here when the rest of us are gone, a comforting thought. I’ve been poking around this site (no one to stop me) and I also loved the post below about blue flowers. I liked the mention of plumbago, something I’ve been meaning to get, so I made a note and hopefully I won’t lose the note and I will find the plant. And just today I am transplanting a hen & chicks plant (enjoyed that post too). Very nice to meet you!


Patrick September 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Thanks so much for stopping by and perusing through my recent posts. I know this is the most important post I’ve written to date based on the content of the comments and how many came in in just the first day. Stay in touch, please.


Renee September 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Hi Patrick, thanks for stopping by my gardening blog. I’d never heard of the Survivor Tree –what a remarkable story. Thanks for sharing.


Patrick September 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I’m very gratified by the response to this posting. I hope more people learn of the Survivor Tree and build their own personal memorials.


PlantPostings September 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Wow, I’ve been fascinated by the story of the tree at Ground Zero, and now I know more about it. Thanks! It is a remarkable story, and it’s so wonderful that it was nursed back to health and is part of the monument. Great post!


Patrick September 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad I could share more details for you. Now spread the word because I think it’s an important story.


Patrick September 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Great post


Kimberley September 18, 2011 at 5:31 am

Thank you for sharing this story. I am struck by the thought that, as they were searching through the rubble for remains, whoever found the tree was aware enough of its significance to notify the parks department to come in and save it. What a lovely tribute and symbol it is to the strength and resilience of nature, the human spirit, and our country!


Patrick September 18, 2011 at 11:19 am

Hey Kimberly,
It’s simply an amazing story. To think its survival became the cornerstone of the whole memorial. When has one tree been a symbol of resilience? I just love this story. I just wish there was more awareness of it.


Rebecca September 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Very interesting post… I enjoyed reading it a lot–thanks for writing this. You’re right about the Bradford not lasting very long though, we had a ice storm a few years ago that took out most of them in our nearby city. Thanks for listing the better choice–‘Chanticleer’ :)


Patrick September 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed it so much.


Catherine Callery October 19, 2011 at 11:56 am

First of all I loved the story of the Callery Pear Tree as I was touch by it. I lived with my parents Patrick & Mairin Callery and I have two sisters Anne & Margaret and I am piggy in the middle (Catherine) . The surname Callery is a Irish surname that is mostly from the West of Ireland in counties Mayo, Roscommon and Galway as my father has been doing his family tree and your story was lovely and well done for doing it. There are Calleries who emgrated to America and that is why my father was intrerest when I show him your website and he was trilled to hear about the tree that took some courage to write it and in memory of the people who lost their lives and the ones that are around today may God bless them all and they are in my prayers. Keep up the good work as I love crafts and you are a good gardener
Yours Sincerely Catherine Callery


Patrick October 19, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Hey Catherine,
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your family history.


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Thanks for the positive feedback. Hope you come back often.


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