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Park Update: Crews have cleared the High Line's paths, and the park is open to the public between Gansevoort and 30th Streets. We are working to open the remainder of the park as soon as possible. Please check back or follow @highlinenyc on Twitter for updates.

Plant of the Week: Whitespire grey birch

This October, we're celebrating the moments of transformation in the High Line gardens created to captivate, draw us in, and show us a different way of looking at nature. As part of Celebrating Fall at the Woodland Edge, we'll be featuring related plants throughout the month. Follow along on social media using #HighLineFallCelebration.

Betula populifolia 'Whitespire' is a cultivar of grey birch that was selected and introduced in 1983 by Edward R. Hasselkus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This small deciduous tree is native to the northeastern quadrant of the North American continent and is one of the most elegant and easily recognized trees on the High Line.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

Birch trees are considered a pioneer species, which have a niche for surviving within poor and dry upland soils or disturbed sites in the urban landscape. These environments can span from scorched forests to man-made sites along train tracks. Averaging a height of thirty feet and often multi-stemmed, they have an open-crowned habit that provides shade as an understory tree. "Whitespire" was selected for both its aesthetic qualities, as well as its resistance to bronze birch borer, a common pest of white and grey birch species.

On the High Line our grey birches create a dominant presence year round, particularly in our pioneer woodland edge where the silvery trunks and diving branches create an intimate space for our visitors to enjoy.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

Historically, grey birches are used to produce high-quality plywood, drum casings, and sewing spools. The sap that flows in springtime is used to make birch beer, similar in taste and quality to Root beer (made historically with sassafras, Sassafras albidum, another species found on the High Line).

Celebrating Fall is about paying homage and having appreciation for the awesome processes and dynamic transformations happening within our park during the autumn season. Betula populifolia 'Whitespire' is only a singular element in the beautiful composition that is the Woodland Edge garden.

PLANTING TIP:
Betula populifolia 'Whitespire' grows well in a wide range of conditions, performing quite well in rocky, nutrient-deficient soils, as well as organic, woodland soils. Grey birches are considered a colonizing species, growing along the edges of railroads and other disturbed sites, making it an ideal candidate for sites where many trees have difficulty establishing themselves. They are adaptable, and have many uses in the ornamental landscape.

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT:
'Whitespire' grey birch can be found growing in the Donald Pels and Wendy Keys Gansevoort Woodland to the Woodland Edge, Gansevoort to 13th Streets

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.


TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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