Native plant lovers have long faced a conundrum. If urban and suburban landscapes are so dominated by exotic flowers, grasses and shrubs, how will Americans ever encounter America's glorious natural heritage on a regular basis?
One spectacular way just became available in New York as of June 8. A section of the old, abandoned rail line on the west side of Manhattan has been refashioned as a pedestrian way planted with a rich variety of native flora.
The irony is pretty rich, too. You'd think that these native plants would need some sort of "natural" habitat to survive, but many of our natural areas aren't really natural anymore. Most of these plants would quickly die if planted in a typical nature preserve, where they'd wither in the dense shade or be eaten to the ground by overabundant deer. Trees and deer are natural, but we've banished the fires and predators that once held their density in check and allowed sunlight to reach the ground here and there.
The low-growing native species in these photos need sun, and they get it here, thirty feet above the streets of New York. In Princeton, the story is very similar. The native species that need sun are thriving in places highly altered by humans--along the canal and at Princeton high school's ecolab wetland.