Pablo Bronstein

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Erika Harvey
EnlargePhoto by Friends of the High Line

At the southern end of the 14th Street Passage an out-of-place tree sways in the September breeze, attracting the attention of park visitors as they pass. With its tall, nearly 18-foot stature, full head of verdant fronds, and slender bare trunk, this tree looks as if it’d be more at home along a white-sand beach than among the soft textures and warm colors of the High Line’s fall landscape.

This curious tropical visitor is Adonidia merrillii, also known colloquially as the “Christmas Palm.” It earned this nickname because its fruit turns a bright scarlet color in winter. Don’t be fooled, however, about its cold-hardiness. While the trees are well-adapted to living to habitats outside their native Philippines, you won’t find it north of the southernmost reaches of Florida.

So, then, what brought this tropical palm to a four-season park like the High Line? Keep reading to find out.

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