On a recent trip to Philadelphia , I had the pleasure of exploring Washington Square in the spring. It's just a block from Independence Hall. A plaque in the square proclaims that "In 1953, American Landscape Architect Andrew Jackson Downingʻs Rural Essays praised Washington Square, reporting that it had ʻmore well grown specimens of different species of forest trees than any similar space of ground in America.' " Here are some photos. I did my best but these are taken with an iphone and, knowing that I would rapidly lose battery, I restricted myself to one shot for each tree. And I did eventually lose my battery power 😨.
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree) Notice the characteristic tulip-shaped leaves and tulip- shaped flowers!
Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo)- these leaves are distinctive and diagnostic of the ginkgo.
Aesculus sp. (horse chestnut). Notice each leaf has 5 leaflets joined at one point; this is a palmate leaf because it resembles the palm of the hand. Most of these flower petals have fallen, revealing early fruits, which will eventually mature into the "chestnuts." These "chestnuts" are poisonous to humans, and despite the common name, they are also poisonous to horses! True edible chestnuts come from trees in a totally different plant family.
Tilia sp. (linden tree). Notice the dark green heart-shaped leaves with their serrate margins and acuminate tips plus the leafy strap-like yellow-green bracts attached to the clusters of small green-yellow flowers, which distinguishes the lindens.
Platanus x acerifolia (London planetree). Notice the exfoliating bark, which reveals white patches on the trunk from the roots on upwards.
Be on the lookout for sapsuckers or woodpeckers; these linear rows of holes are evidence that they have been here!
Katherine Wagner-Reiss has her botany Certificate from the New York Botanical Garden, where she is a volunteer tour guide.