As part of its First Annual Arbor Day celebration, Kensico Cemetery announced that it has earned Level I Arboretum status making Kensico Cemetery an official tree-focused public garden and one of only two cemeteries in Westchester County to earn that distinction.

There are four different levels of accreditation granted by ArbNet, and all levels require a strategic plan, a focus on woody species, public access, and participation in the ArbNet community.

Michael H. Cook, Jr., ISA arborist and Superintendent at Kensico Cemetery described the steps taken by Kensico to apply for arboretum status: “Although Level 1 status required submitting 25 specimens, we reviewed our collection of trees with Kensico Board Member and horticulturalist Richard Schnall, and together identified 44 trees that were unusual for this area of the country or were of significant size and age and that each one was easily accessible from our roadways. With assistance from the Davey Research Group, we developed a map, and double-checked all spellings and origins for the selected trees as part of the signage process. We’re already working on the upgrade to Level II.”

A list of the 44 trees and a map showing the location of each tree has been posted on the Kensico website www.www.kensico.org under “News”. Every tree will have a 3” x 5” metal label with the common name, Latin name, origin, height and spread, and a “Landscape Value Descriptor” indicating the tree’s commercial and/or cultural contribution.

Commenting on the significance of the Level 1 arboretum designation, Richard Schnall said, “Earning the Level 1 Arboretum status is the natural result of the vision of the founders of Kensico Cemetery. It builds on Kensico’s long history of preserving and beautifying the landscape. The selected trees represent a part of a diverse collection dating back to the cemetery’s beginning and includes some more recently planted. Level I status is just the first step in codifying what we know is a significant collection deserving of public appreciation.”

Schnall continued: “I’d also like to point out that the trees and shrubs we selected are native and non-native, flowering, and shade-producing. They provide habitat and food for bees, birds, butterflies, pollinators, and desirable wildlife. Their leaves absorb carbon and help cool the atmosphere. They are a critical part of what makes Kensico Cemetery a beautiful place of remembrance.“

In making the Level 1 Arboretum designation announcement, Kensico President Matthew G. Parisi said, “This official recognition of Kensico Cemetery as a public garden is the culmination of a two-year effort to determine the best way to make our amazing collection of trees, shrubs, and plants available to the community in the most meaningful and structured way. Our plans now focus on creating a variety of educational and experiential opportunities for the public to further enjoy the cemetery grounds. We encourage everyone to check our website www.www.kensico.org for news about upcoming workshops, tree walks, and other events!”

The first Annual Arbor Day commemoration at Kensico Cemetery was held Friday, April 29 during which an eight-foot Franklinia alatamaha was planted on the slope opposite the Administration Building by Kensico Administration. The “Franklin,” as it is known, was selected for its fragrant white flowers, orange-red fall foliage, and its ancestry from seeds collected by botanist William Bartram while exploring southern Georgia. Bartram named the species after family friend Benjamin Franklin.

Click here to download the Arboretum map and tree list.

ArbNet is an international arboretum accreditation and networking program supported and coordinated through The Morton Arboretum, with partners American Public Gardens Association and Botanic Gardens Conservation International. ArbNet sets industry standards, fosters partnerships and collaborations, and provides guidelines for the professional development of tree-focused gardens.  

Kensico Cemetery is a not-for-profit membership organization established in 1889 to serve the burial needs of families in the New York metropolitan area.

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