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Natural Areas

NYC Parks "Forever Wild" sites- Nature in New York City

There are 48 Forever Wild Nature Preserves in NYC’s five boroughs—more than 8,700 wild acres that include towering forests, vibrant wetlands, and expansive meadows. Most are accessible by public transit and have trails, nature centers, and public facilities. At the website, you’ll find maps, directions, and descriptions of the preserves.

Torrey Botanical Society Field Trips

TBS offers free botanical walks from April through October throughout the NYC-metro area. These trips are for general study and monitoring of the flora within a park or any place of botanic interest. While most trips emphasize plant study, other aspects of natural history are also discussed. Not a hiking club so walking distances are not long. Also our fiscal sponsor!

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods

PPOW leads free walks for people of all ages throughout the island's many and delightfully varied natural areas. Experienced naturalists will point out plants and animals of interest. Protectors is also Staten Island's land conservation organization and has fought legal battles to save many local parks and forests, marshes and meadows.

Virtual Botanical Walk

Enjoy a virtual tour of Corson’s Brook Woods in Staten Island led by Marielle where you’ll encounter the early spring wildflowers that bloom the end of April before the trees leaf out. This beautiful forest is one of the many saved by PPOW!

Forest of Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan. Image by Marielle Anzelone
Native Plant Garden of NYBG


Stuvesant Cove Park

Found from 18 to 22nd Streets east of the FDR, Stuyvesant Cove Park showcases plants that are indigenous to the region. All the more remarkable that these are grown in about 6 inches of soil - including hickory trees.

New York Botanical Garden Native Plant Garden

The 3.5-acres feature nearly 450 taxa of trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, sedges, and forbs native to the Northeast. It also supports 7 species that are part of the National Collection of Endangered Plants, the largest living collection of rare plants in the world. Originally designated as a native plant garden by Elizabeth Gertrude Britton, wife of NYBG founding botanist, Nathaniel Lord Britton and herself a renowned bryologist.

Field Guides

Wildflowers in the Field and Forest by Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie

The most comprehensive field guide for the northeastern U.S. and Canada, with descriptive text and range maps on one side facing pages of color photos on the other.

Illustrated Field Guide to Shrubs and Woody Vines of Long Island by G. E. Lotowycz and B. H. Conolly

This book focuses on the woody plants that most field guides gloss over. A welcome inclusion is the sub-shrubs, and the text reflects the changing nature of our natural areas through its listing of species’ frequencies and inclusion of naturalized exotics.

A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter: Herbaceous Plants of Northeastern North America by Carol Levine

A comprehensive guide covering nearly 400 herbaceous plants in detail, with briefer notes on another 200. Illustrated with beautiful, accurate line drawings with descriptions of fruit, stems, leaves, habit, and habitat to help identify the plant.

Biodiversity Assessment Handbook for New York City by Erik Kiviat and Elizabeth A. Johnson, American Museum of Natural History.

Includes habitat profiles of  NYC's upland forest, maritime beach, grassland, freshwater swamp, salt marsh, freshwater marsh - all written by Marielle, who also contributed chapters on cliff ferns and spring ephemerals.

Common NYC Seaweed - Great list of marine macroalgae - courtesy of Dr. Susan Hewitt

Native Plant Photo Library

A Black person's hand holding a red maple leaf. Image by Ibrahim Rifath

Gardening with Wildflowers

Teens planting native wildflowers in Union Square Park in Manhattan. Image by Marielle Anzelone

Books and Websites

Gardening with NYC Native Plants

This brochure gives an overview of gardening with local wildflowers including why garden with natives, lists of wildflowers for different  sites and how to attract wildlife. Written by Marielle during her tenure as Plant Ecologist with NYC Parks. Download the pdf

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy

The book that started it all. Dr. Tallamy's research draws a critical link between birds and the insects they feed their young in spring - specifically caterpillars. Caterpillars have very specific relationships to the plants they eat. Our native dogwood Cornus florida feeds dozens of caterpillars; the Asian species Cornus mas feeds zero. No native plants = no caterpillars = no baby birds.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guides

Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants - Offers alternative plants for use in gardens, yards, and natural plantings; organized by: trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants, and grasses. Marielle is a contributor.

Going Native: Biodiversity in Our Own Backyard  - Top designers show how to employ native species for wildlife habitats.

Great Natives for Tough Places - Help for choosing suitable native plants for challenging growing conditions. Marielle is a contributor.

Mistaken Identity? Invasive Plants and their Native Look-alikes: An Identification Guide for the Mid-Atlantic

An NYBG publication by Dr. Robert Naczi that facilitates correct identification of confusingly similar invasive and native plant species. View a pdf of Mistaken Identity here.

A Guide to Native Plants of the New York City Region by Margaret B. Gargiullo

Geared specifically for landscape architects, land managers, and restoration ecologists, this book offers practical advice on the indigenous flora growing in the metropolitan area. Filled with information gleaned from Dr. Gargiullo's years of field work as Plant Ecologist for NYC Parks.

Native Plant Nurseries


Nurseries in the NYC Region

Gowanus Nursery - Brooklyn, NY

A great resource within the five boroughs. The owner is very helpful and they have a surprising number indigenous wildflowers.

Catskill Native Nursery - Kerhonkson, NY

Herbaceous (perennials), shrubs & trees

Fort Pond Native Plant Nursery - Montauk, NY

Natives and non - a very large selection with excellent specimen trees and shrubs

The Plantsmen Nursery - Ithaca, NY

Trees, shrubs, vines, wildflowers, ferns - and a very nice website


Edge of the Woods - Fogelsville, PA

Over 300 species of nursery propagated native trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns, perennials and wildflowers

Greenbelt Native Plant Center - Staten Island, NY

The Center is the only municipal native-plant nursery in the country. It is a 13-acre greenhouse, nursery and seed bank complex owned and operated by the City of New York Parks & Recreation on Staten Island. The center has spent three decades raising specimens of the city’s indigenous flora for use in local restoration and replanting projects.

Hibiscus moscheutos. Swamp Rose Mallow. Image by Marielle Anzelone

Botanical Clubs and Societies

Botanical Clubs
Little white girl dressed as a wildflower. Image by Marielle Anzelone

Botanical Clubs and Societies in the NYC region

Torrey Botanical Society

The oldest botanical society in the United States, they publish a peer reviewed journal and host talks by plant researchers and offer plant walks by knowledgeable botanists. Also our sponsor!

Connecticut Botanical Society

Amateur and professional botanists who share an interest in the plants and habitats of Connecticut and the surrounding region. They run field trips and host meetings.

Long Island Botanical Society

Dedicated to the promotion of field botany and a greater understanding of the plants that grow wild on Long Island, New York. They host lectures and run field trips in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

New Jersey Native Plant Society

A statewide non-profit organization dedicated to the appreciation, protection, and study of the native flora of New Jersey. Local chapters active across the state.

New York Flora Association

Dedicated to field botany and furthering the understanding of plants that grow wild in New York State. Also responsible for the very excellent NY Flora Atlas which maps the distribution of plants within the state and includes information on plant habitats, associated ecological communities, and taxonomy.

New York Mycological Society

Dedicated to raising the public awareness of mushrooms in science, cuisine and more. Offering lectures and fungi walks. Not plants, but plant-adjacent.

Nature Readings



The Forests and Wetlands of New York City by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers

An account of New York City before the City, the book chronicles the evolution of the city's topography, geography, and flora as humans began to settle and impose changes on the natural landscape.

Natural History of New York City: A Personal Report after Fifty Years of Study & Enjoyment of Wildlife within the Boundaries of Greater New York by John Kieran

A historical account of nature in New York City, published in 1959 and pulling from observations and written notations from previous decades. Adequately summed up in the subtitle, "A book for sidewalk naturalists everywhere".

Wild New York by Margaret Mittlebach & Michael Crewdson

Showing that New York is more than just the flash and dazzle associated with Times Square or the skyscrapers of the Financial District, this guide details biological sights of all five boroughs, with site recommendations for each.

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Before the cultural phenomenon that is Braiding Sweetgrass, there was this book, Dr. Kimmerer's first. Mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world and NYC. This book is a beautifully written mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to understand how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings.

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney

This book argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the "great outdoors" and determined who has access to natural spaces. Dr. Finney shows how nature is racialized in America. She also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to more equitable participation in the environment.

Days Afield on Staten Island by William T. Davis

Originally written in 1894, the book provides a startling contrast to today's Staten Island, as it overflows with accounts of flourishing native orchids, wild mink, and flying squirrels.

The Power Broker by Robert Caro

Robert Moses completely reshaped the face of New York City, devastating much of the open space and native flora in the process. While he started the country's first state-wide system of parks, he also introduced many non-native species into the landscape (including the invasive Norway maple). This Pulitzer Prize-winning history explains why and how Moses' legacy still casts large shadows today.

Mittened hands holding a frame around American holly,  Ilex opaca. Image by Marielle Anzelone

Local Research

Daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) in front of Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Image by Marielle Anzelone

Initiatives in New York City

New York Metropolitan Flora Project

Scientists at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden undertook the most comprehensive study ever of the plant biodiversity in metropolitan New York. Studying the vegetative changes in highly populated areas is critical to understanding the future of life in our rapidly urbanizing world.

NYC Native Plant Conservation Initiative

This collaborative study examined whether local plant species maintained their genetic variability and population fitness. Results would inform management strategies designed to reverse these trends. Begun in 2008, the pilot program focuses on 34 species of plants that are infrequently found in New York City.

State of New York City's Plants

Scientists at The New York Botanical Garden summarized the status of the spontaneous vascular species (ferns and fern allies, gymnosperms, and flowering plants). From 1807 to 2018, 2,029 species in 160 families and 726 genera were recorded. Today 13% of the City’s flora is imperiled or extinct.

New York City has a rich diversity of native bee species. Unfortunately,  when most people think of "bees" they picture the honey bee, an
aggressive, invasive species that lives in large colonies.  Most of NYC's 200+  bee species are docile and solitary  -  the females live alone in
subterranean tunnels, the males camp out in flowers. Many of the
native bees are specialists, only collecting pollen from a single
genus of plant, and so need that host plant in order to survive.

NYC Beewatchers project examined New York City native bee and pollinator service distribution. It also produced this spiffy chart on identifying the most common bees and bee-adjacent pollinators in NYC. For current pollinator work, see  NYC Pollinator Working Group, a network of organizations working collaboratively to conserve beneficial pollinating insects and the resources they need to survive.

Van Cortlandt Park Biodiversity & Ecology

A long term initiative to document and identify all biological species living in the park. This data will be used to engage the public and help inform park management. As one of the city's largest parks, Van Cortlandt is home to high concentrations of locally rare plants. 

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