Q. What was the most popular or prominent native flower in the region that is now the Bronx, prior to devopment?
Thank you for your question. We had the help of NYBG reference librarian, Samantha D'Acunto, in researching this interesting question.
It is extremely difficult to know what popular or prominent flowers were in the Bronx before European settlers as there are no documents containing this information. However, we are lucky to have the wonderful Mannahatta Project as resource. The Mannahatta Project explored the original ecology of the five boroughs pre-1600. The project lists flora and fauna that were vital to the people and land before changes brought by European settlers. You can read more about Mannahatta and it’s continuation project, Welikia on the project website.
The best approach to answer your question would be to research the historic plants of the area. It is documented that the Lenape people lived throughout Manhattan and the Bronx, It’s best to refer to the plants they used. The book Mannahatta offers a well-researched chapter about the Lenape and the land. I scanned a section of the chapter that provides a list of animals and plants the Lenape used. If interested in a broader historical ecology of New York City pre-1600, I would recommend you refer to the extensive list of plants found throughout the five boroughs at the end of the Mannahatta project book.
Another approach to exploring historical plants of your area would be to review the Active Inventory List. The Active Inventory List contains a list of plants that are tracked for the NY Natural Heritage Program. The code that may be of interest to you is “SH = Historical. No existing sites known in New York State in the last 20-30 years but it may be rediscovered.”
I hope you find this information helpful. Best of luck with your research!
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service