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Native Plants Research in South Midwood

Updated: May 16, 2023

Why Natives?

Many of us have only recently come to understand the importance of growing native plants. Natives provide food and habitat for our local birds, bees and butterflies. Native plants are also often out-competed by invasives (think kudzu) and planting natives in our own spaces supports the survival of the plant species themselves.

Fortunately, NYC Parks has long been aware of the importance of native plantings. Parks has its own nursery, the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, dedicated to collecting seeds from the five boroughs and growing those seeds into plants for use in the city’s parks. Now Greenbelt is taking the next step to increase the use of native plants in New York city by conducting research trials to determine which natives can thrive on our streets, the Native Plant Trial.

What is this Native Plant Trial?

This year for the first time, Greenbelt is conducting a systematic trial of native plants in street tree beds in the five boroughs. This multi-year citizen science effort, officially titled NYC Park Native Plant Trial, trains volunteers to plant, tend and collect data about the growth and viability of select native plants on city streets. This new research is modeled after garden trials done by Mount Cuba Center and Chicago Botanic Gardens and will collect in-depth, species level data.

The South Midwood Pollinators are proud and honored to be part of this pioneering effort. Our three sites were the first to be selected. Two are located at E 26th and Glenwood, adjacent to Midwood High, and the third is on Foster Avenue at the entrance to E 24th Street.

How are Native Plant Trial tree beds different from our other Street Tree plantings?

Our designated Native Plant Trial tree beds are distinct from the other tree pits that Pollinators plant, both in how they are planted and how they are cared for.

  • First, species (plant type) are planted in groups of 10 according to a specified grid system.

  • Second, though we clean and aerate the soil before planting and mulch afterwards, we do not add compost or other soil amendments. Why? Because the goal is to discover whether plants can survive under normal “street” circumstances.

  • Third, we water and weed only moderately in the first year, and substantially less in the second and third years once the plants are established. Again, the goal is to discover which plants can survive with a “normal” amount of care/neglect.

  • Finally, we regularly enter data electronically – as many as 100 different data points - about the health and circumstances of each species in each bed.

So while we Pollinators continue to give all the water, compost and care we can muster to our other street tree plantings – more is more – our clearly marked Native Plant Trial beds are on a leaner diet.

Gary building enclosure for Foster Ave tree bed in a downpour.

Interested in becoming a citizen science volunteer for the Native Plant Trial?

Email with Native Plant Trial in the subject line.Our plantings are complete but we have years of watering, weeding and data collection ahead!

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