The New York Botanical Garden


Gathering chestnuts in Fairmont Park 

A Forest in the City: Centuries of Sylvan Beauty

On view in the William D. Rondina Gallery

of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library


An exhibition of lavish folios, artifacts, photographs, and rare artwork featuring

the beauty and rich history of The New York Botanical Garden’s Native Forest


November 5, 2011–January 16, 2012


Incredible as it may seem, in the middle of New York City on the grounds of The New York Botanical Garden, there is the largest remaining tract of the uncut, old-growth forest that once covered the entire region. A Forest in the City: Centuries of Sylvan Beauty explores the history and significance of the Botanical Garden’s 50-acre Thain Family Forest. This exhibition gathers together magnificent botanical and natural history books, works on paper, photographs, and forest artifacts from the collections of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library accompanied by several items on loan from the collections of the American Museum of Natural History. It will be on view in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Rondina Gallery from Saturday, November 5, 2011, through Monday, January 16, 2012. Two festival weekends and a special symposium will also celebrate the dedication of this remarkable Forest and its ongoing program of restoration as well as the United Nations International Year of Forests.


About the Exhibition


The Garden has a long history of forest monitoring and management by scientists, arborists, and horticulturists who have engaged in the study of its ecology and biodiversity. The images and objects in the exhibition bring to life the story of the Forest, exploring its role as a place of discovery and habitat, and introduce visitors to the biodiversity and ecology of this precious resource and the ways in which the Garden practices responsible stewardship of this unique urban old-growth forest for the enjoyment of visitors today and for future generations to come.


The exhibition opens with a look at the ways in which the site was used by the Lenape people, Native Americans who lived on the Garden’s site long before the arrival of Europeans. A series of naturalists and travelers, who explored our forests, left their verbal and pictorial descriptions of what they witnessed. Visitors have the opportunity to view several magnificently illustrated accounts of the natural resources of the New World seen through European eyes. The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle in the New York area and to record their findings.  The exhibition examines what the Dutch found in the native forests of the area, what trees are native to the Garden’s Forest, and some of the animals that can be found living there today.


Visitors learn about the dynamic processes that occur in the Forest while viewing spectacular images of the great variety of plant life found there and the ever-changing stresses and threats. At one time the Forest composition was much different from what is seen today; visitors learn about invasive plants, blights and pest threats that have wrought drastic changes to the Forest and the ways in which the Garden is overseeing the ongoing restoration to ensure the Forest’s health and survival.


The exhibition offers a rare opportunity for visitors to examine several treasures held in the collections of the Garden’s renowned LuEsther T. Mertz Library. An unusual juxtaposition showcases the works of three famous bird artists, Roger Tory Peterson, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and John James Audubon, on view to represent some of the more than 200 species of birds that can be seen at the Garden throughout the year. Also on display will be a pristine copy of 18th-century naturalist Mark Catesby’s large folio featuring the first full-color published illustrations of the plants and animals of British North America. Other rare treasures on loan from the collections of The American Museum of Natural History include a copy of Audubon’s little known yet beautifully colored work on North American mammals and a carved and painted Native American cradleboard.