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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - November 06, 2010

From: Patchogue, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Trees native to Long Island, NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

My question is: What are the main trees that were native to Long Island before all other trees began to be brought into Long Island?

ANSWER:

I'm sure you have heard the saying, "Give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, you'll feed him for a lifetime".

I can't give you a list of trees to answer your question, but I can help you find the answer yourself. There are a few different sources for you to check.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we define "native plants" as those that grow in a particular place without being introduce by man.  As you can imagine, at times it is hard to determine at the edge of a range whether a plant is occuring there as a result of nature or man.

If you visit our Native Plant Database and perform a Combination Search for "New York" selecting "trees" as the habit, it will generate a list of 180 trees that are considered native to New York.  Each plant name on the list is linked to a detailed information page about that plant. Most have a number of images of the plants as well.

Using the first plant on the list,  Abies balsamea (Balsam fir), you will notice the USDA symbol on the plant information page just under the plant names.  It is linked to the USDA database page for that plant. On that page you will find a map of North America and more information about the plant. To the left of the image is a notation titled Native Status.  In this case it says L48 (lower 48 states of the US), CAN (Canada) and SMP (St Pierre et Miquelon ... islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River that are still part of France).  The map of North America shows (in green) the states and provinces where the plant is present.

If you click on your state, it will show a county distribution map. From that map, you will have to draw your own conclusions as to whether or not a tree is present and native or present and introduced.

You can also perform a search on the USDA database website.  You will find the search feature at the top of the grey sidebar on the left of the homepage.  You will want to perform an Advanced Search selecting your county (New York: Suffolk?) under 1. Distribution and "tree" for growth habit and "L48 Native" for Native Status under 3. Ecology.  You can compare their list with ours.

I would also recommend contacting your County Agricultural Extension Office to see if they can offer advice and have included a couple of books in our Bibliography that might be helpful.

 

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