Alexander von Humboldt Birthday Celebration: September 14th at 77th & Central Park West at 5 pm

Alexander von Humboldt

Born: September 14, 1769…………248th Birthday Celebration


Meet 9/14 at 5pm at the Alexander von Humboldt bust at 77th & CPW

An equinoctial walk with a Humboldtian view of Central Park


Latitude:   40.47 N    Sunrise: 6:36 am  Moonrise: 12:30 am

Longitude: 73.58 W   Sunset: 7:06 pm   Planets & Stars: see web

Altitude: 115 feet               Temp. range today: 63-76

Soil Composition: acidic     Precip. last 30 days: 4”; last 365: 50”

Rocks & Minerals: Manhattan Schist,          glacial boulders, etc.

Ground-level diversity: 400 plants, 400+ fungi, 350 animals

Tree-top diversity: undoc /Air quality:“good” (spores & pollen)

Subterranean diversity: 122,000 bacteria, 43,000 eukaryotes

Central Park Lake biodiversity: many protozoans & “algae”

Predominant pollen: ragweed, grasses and chenopods


The Take-Away: Central Park is not a miscellaneous assortment of plants but rather, seen through Humboldt’s prism, sets of overlapping communities of ecosystems housing organisms (within organisms) found throughout the recognized kingdoms of life. While you won’t find palm trees or alpine plants growing in Central Park, there is more to be discovered in this artificial piece of 19th Century landscape design than we have time to study, but time enough to admire.

Within feet of Humboldt’s bust there are mosses and ferns, ancient gymnosperms and modern flowering plants, as well as fungi and lichens, and all manner of animal life.

A few examples of natural connections in Central Park:

1 Over 1500 elms in the park serve as high-rise condominiums for nesting & feeding birds, bees & other insects, squirrels, and some edible mushrooms, differing as you rise to their tops!

2 Oaks are ectomycorrhizal, benefiting from a mutualism with fungi that furnishes them with hard to access nutrients.

3 Ginkgo has cyanobacteria fixing nitrogen on its roots.

4 Trees like willows, but many others, as well, either have or can synthesize salicylic acid, an important anti-inflammatory

drug that plants can use as needed for their vascular system.

5 Some large trees, like beech, can “feed” their nearby “children” through their roots assisted by mycorrhizal fungi.

6 Some weeds like crabgrass are C4 plants, far more efficient at photosynthesis than C3 plants, the vast majority in the park.

7 Plants, without known exception, have fungal endophytes living within their tissues, protecting them against drought, excessive heat, and predators. “Weeds” have more than most.

8 Dandelions flowering in early spring are essential for bees on warm late winter days that are out looking for nourishment.

9 Lichens are nearly ubiquitous on Central Park trees and rocks now because our air quality has improved since the 70’s.

10 The diversity of life in one drop of water in the Central Park Lake is greater than you have time to identify, even in winter!



Humboldt, Alexander von. “Cosmos,” vols. 1 & 2

Humboldt, Alexander von. “Essay on the Geography of Plants”

Humboldt, Alexander von. “Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent”

Humboldt, Alexander von. “Views of Nature”

Walls, Laura Dassow. “The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America”

Wulf, Andrea. “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World”


See – Central Park Ecosystem Worksheet

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