The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.
This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.
While it is not yet the season for apple picking and pumpkin harvesting, plants on the High Line are beginning to bear fruit. And while it is inedible, the fruit of the Emerald Pagoda Japanese snowbell, or Styrax japonicas ‘Emerald Pagoda,’ provides a stunning, subtle, visual detail for park goers.
This lush, shrub-like tree blooms white, star-shaped flowers in the spring, which give way to the small, smooth, oval fruits currently visible in the park. The flat-topped, symmetrical canopy of the broad tree, which grows horizontally and vertically, contrasts with the surrounding wild grasses and flowers. This works to showcase the wide variety of types and aesthetics of the plants on the High Line, an important aspect to the park's landscape design that is meant to keep visitors interested and engaged.
As its name suggests, the deciduous plant is not native to North America, but to China, Korea, and Japan. In its native habitats, the plant’s smooth bark has a long history of being used to create a resin. This resin, which came from many species of Styrax, was in turn used many ways, such as in incense, perfume, and medicine. The fruit, however, was not consumed, as it contains the poison egosaponin. In Asia, this poison was used to collect fish, as it stuns the creatures when dropped into a body of water. On the High Line, however, the purpose of the tree is similar to that of all of our plants – to create a green oasis in the heart of Manhattan.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Emerald pagoda Japanese snowbell can be found on the High Line at West 21st Street.