Prospect Park’s signature tree looks even more impressive when its leaves are down.
Just past the Boathouse and Lullwater Bridge, you will find what appears to be a large shrub surrounded by an iron fence. The Camperdown Elm is a ground-hugging elm tree derived from a cutting from a creeping Scotch elm at the Camperdown House in Dundee, Scotland in 1872. Until you get a good look at the leaves, in outline and form it rather resembles weeping beech trees found in Flushing and Douglaston. A closer look reveals contorted, twisting branches that turn toward the ground instead of toward the sun. Camperdowns never develop trunks and so must be grafted onto other elms. By the mid-1960s, the tree was in danger of dying but was rescued at the encouragement of Brooklyn poet Marianne Moore, whose tribute to the tree was published in The New Yorker in 1967. Prospect Park is home to many other rare botanical species; Tree Trails in Prospect Park by George Kalmbacher is the definitive guide, and New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Barnard is a more recent one for all of NYC.