John J. Hoffee Tulip Tree Allée
Conceived by preeminent landscape architect Calvert Vaux in 1895, Tulip Tree Allée is the most historic and distinguished tree planting at the Garden. Its stately rows of tulip trees were planted along the drive leading to the Library Building beginning in 1903.
For nearly 120 years, Garden horticulturists have worked to nurture, preserve, and protect our beloved tulip trees. As a direct result of this care, the tulip trees have exceeded their expected 100-year life span in our urban setting.
In spite of this special care, the tulip trees have been experiencing gradual decline in the past few years. Garden leadership, working with our curators and outside specialists, determined that it was time to replant the Allée. This decision lays the groundwork so that visitors will be able to enjoy this majestic Garden feature for the next century and beyond.
Caring for Our Collections
The New York Botanical Garden is fortunate to have nearly 30,000 magnificent trees in its gardens, living collections, and natural landscapes. Caring for these trees is among our top institutional priorities. From time to time, trees are removed for health or safety reasons.
In 2020 Garden arborists removed five trees from Tulip Tree Allée that had naturally degenerated, which provided the impetus for implementing the elegant multiyear replanting plan developed by landscape architect Laurie Olin.
The first phase of this plan began in January 2021 with the removal of four additional trees. In March 2021, 10 new trees were planted. Four more trees will be replaced in 2022. Phased replanting will continue through 2024 along with other improvements.
Image: Library Building and Allée, ca. 1904. Archives of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library
A New York City Landmark
Tulip trees were chosen to complement a venerable native specimen preserved on the site. Known as the mother tree, it is among the oldest and largest trees at NYBG, standing more than 135 feet tall. Garden curators will continue to care for this matriarch for as long as it remains healthy and viable.
In 2009 the Allée was named a New York City Landmark, along with the Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life and LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building. A signature feature of the NYBG landscape, the Allée is beautiful in every season.
Tulip Tree Allée Through the Years
Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) were planted along the Allée beginning in 1903.
Planting Tulip Trees, 1910. LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The founding director of NYBG, Nathaniel Lord Britton (1859–1934), and the architect of the Mertz Library Building, Robert W. Gibson (1854–1927), selected tulip trees to border the Allée leading to the building.
Winter, 1912. LuEsther T. Mertz Library
Aeroplane view of Tulip Tree Allée, 1921. LuEsther T. Mertz Library
Tulip Trees along the Allée, 1936. LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The original tulip trees planted along the Allée are more than 100 years old, exceeding their expected life span in an urban setting.
Tulip Tree Allée in fall.
About Tulip Trees
Named for their tulip-like, cupped yellow-and-orange spring flowers, tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are among the tallest and stateliest hardwood trees found in eastern North American forests.
When they grow in the forest, tulip trees generally have straight trunks with no branches for 60 feet or more, which made them the preferred choice for Native Americans to carve into dugout canoes. Trees grown in the open, such as those in the Allée, produce large lower branches, which extend out from the main trunk at almost right angles, and large numbers of vertical branchlets extending upward. The complex architecture of these magnificent trees is most readily observed in winter, when the leaves have all fallen away. This is also when it is possible to spot the clusters of winged seeds, which remain on the tree throughout the cold months.
The large, four-lobed leaves of tulip trees are unlike any other leaf, offering welcome shade in summer and gradually turning bright gold in fall. The common name of the tree, however, refers to the distinctive flowers, which emerge shortly after the leaves in spring. Opening in early summer, the large, upright flower cups are orange-yellow at the base and light green-yellow at the tips of the petals. Their beauty can be hard to appreciate when they remain on the tree, since they often cluster among the leaves high in the canopy. As they mature, the flowers fall to the ground, where they are easier to observe.
Replanting generously underwritten by the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust in honor of its Trustee John J. Hoffee
Additional support by Robert A. Bartlett, Jr.