Flowering plants (Angiosperms) are the largest group of plants, with over 300,000 described species. All angiosperms produce flowers, which give rise to seeds enclosed in a fruit. The evolution of flowers and fruits were key innovations that led to the current dominance and diversity of angiosperms seen on Earth today.
The first Flora of New York City was compiled by John Torrey in 1819. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, thanks to the efforts of the New York Botanical Garden, the Torrey Botanical Society, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, there was considerable focus on local flora. However, these decades also saw accelerating development and industrialization, which has led to the destruction and pollution of many habitats throughout the city. In a 2004 study, it was found that since the 1850s, nearly 50% of the native herbaceous species have become extirpated (locally extinct) from New York City.
According to the State of the City’s Plants 2018, produced by the EcoFlora project, there are over 2,000 species of vascular plants which occur or have historically occured in New York City. The families with the most representation are the Grasses (Poaceae), Daisies (Asteraceae), and Sedges (Cyperaceae). There are six species of plants found in NYC which are listed as globally Critically Endangered. This includes all four Ash species known to occur in the city (white ash [Fraxinus americana], black ash [F. nigra], green ash [F. pennsylvanica], and pumpkin ash [F. profunda]), as well as the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) and Bayard’s Adder’s-Mouth orchid (Malaxis bayardii). Nearly 300 additional species are endangered at the national and state levels, with 13% of the flora of NYC considered rare and/or threatened.
Learn more about the flowering plants of New York City using the resources below!