Celebrating the Chelsea Grasslands: Highlights

Throughout September, we have celebrated the Chelsea Grasslands – a special area of the park between West 18th and West 20th Streets that was inspired by the tallgrass prairie of the American Midwest. Through themed tours, family programming, social media, blog posts, food, and a panel featuring High Line planting designer Piet Oudolf, we hope that visitors have enjoyed exploring this unique stretch of park and have learned something about the heritage, design, plant ecology, and cultural history of the grasslands.

Here are some of the highlights from the celebration:


Photo by Cristina Macaya.

The Chelsea Grasslands evoke an American landscape that has largely vanished. There are many challenges that come with both designing and maintaining a grassland on a structure like the High Line. Learn more in our Gardening in the Sky Blog Series.


"The Big Four""The Big Four" are a classic collection of prairie grasses, and all four are found along the High Line. Three are found in the Chelsea Grasslands: Andropogon gerardii, Schizachyrium scoparium (a cultivar named 'Standing Ovation'), and Panicum virgatum (our cultivar of choice is 'Shenandoah). The final grass of the set, Sorghastrum nutans, can be found in the northernmost section of the High Line, along 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. Check out our full blog post to learn more.

Bur oak

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

When asked to conjure an image of the prairie, most people picture an endless sea of grass. In actuality, the tallgrass prairie was punctuated by groves of trees such as Quercus macrocarpa, or bur oak. You can find a collection of six bur oaks on the southern end of the Chelsea Grasslands. Check out our full blog post to learn more.

Prairie dropseed

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Sporobolis heterolepis, or prairie dropseed, is a fine-textured, clump-forming perennial grass grown for its foliage and flowers. Its unique scent, often compared to coriander or buttered popcorn, is unmistakable this time of year on the High Line. It can be found in several spots in the park, including in the Chelsea Grasslands. Check out our full blog post to learn more.

Compass plant

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Silphium laciniatum, or compass plant, has a bright yellow flower with lengthy stalks. This long-lived perennial blooms July through September and can reach a lofty height of 6-10 feet. In the High Line's shallow beds, Silphium laciniatum cannot stay upright on its own, so it tends to spread over its neighbors or along the railing of the park. Check out our full blog post to learn more.

Live from the Chelsea Grasslands: Discover the Big Four
Live from the Chelsea Grasslands: Grasslands Design
Live from the Chelsea Grasslands: The Scented Plants
Live from the Chelsea Grasslands: Designing a Matrix
Follow the High Line on Facebook at @highlinenyc for additional content and videos.

New York City-based artist Michael De Feo continued his long partnership with Friends of the High Line and created numerous works featured on the signage throughout the park during the celebration, as well as on specially designed High Line staff t-shirts. His limited-edition Grasslands posters (pictured below) have been a visitor favorite at the information cart. Learn more about Michael De Feo.


Andi Pettis, Piet Ouolf, Uli Lorimer and Annik La Farge speak at the Chelsea Grasslands panel. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
Friends of the High line hosted a panel featuring planting designer Piet Ouolf, On the High Line author Annik La Farge, and Uli Lorimer, Curator of the Native Flora Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Moderated by Andi Pettis, Director of Horticulture at Friends of the High Line, the sold-out event featured conversations about the intersections of the garden design, plant ecology, and cultural history of our Chelsea Grasslands. Missed it? Watch Part 1 of the video | Watch Part 2 of the video


Photo by Liz Ligon

As part of the Grasslands Celebration, we held a series of roving classes for visitors to delve deeper into the history of the Grasslands. The first class, Designing a Grassland, explored how a diverse, prairie-inspired plant palette makes the Grasslands a garden that engages all the senses. Visitors discovered how the plants of the Chelsea Grasslands perform ecological functions for the horticulture of the High Line during the Ecology of a Grassland class. The last class, The Human Experience of Grasslands, taught visitors about the history of the prairie, from forging the spirit of the American frontier to compelling us to balance agriculture with wild land conservation.

To conclude the celebration, check out how the Chelsea Grasslands changed throughout the month:

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.

Celebrating the Chelsea Grasslands is made possible, in part, by TD Bank—the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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