“Oldest Living Thing” is a lofty title, and one of considerable debate.
What is not up for debate is the fact that the Queens Giant, also known as the Alley Pond Giant, is surely in the running for the title, at least for the New York City area. Estimated to be the ripe old age of between 350 and 400 years old, this tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) was part of a 17th century gift from the Dutch West India Company to the Manhattan Walloon families.
While the tree is old enough to have witnessed George Washington’s tour of Long Island in 1790, as far as tulip trees go, the Queens Giant is merely middle-aged. Reaching heights of well over 100 ft. these beautifully flowering behemoths can live up to 600 years.
At 133.8 ft., this esteemed New York citizen also holds the title of the tallest tree in a metropolis that was just a wee Dutch settlement when the Queens Giant came to be planted in what is now Alley Pond Park just north of the Long Island Expressway. Sheltered from vandals and other possible threats by a small metal fence, the elderly tree has an informative sign leaned against it that states its arboreal credentials. While many locals don’t like disclosing the location of this mighty giant, one sure way to catch a glimpse is with the Urban Park Ranger Tour.
With 5.2 million trees in the city, it’s hard to say for sure if the Alley Pond Giant is truly the oldest living thing, or just really damn close. Either way, this revered flowering beauty still has hundreds of years of living to do.
Note: The fence currently has a big hole in it, and the base of the tree has a person-sized hollow within. Hidden within the hollow are what looks to be a geocache and logbook. If you go to visit the tree, please treat it with care.
The plaque resides on the fence at the corner of East Hampton Blvd. and Horace Harding Expressway. The narrow trail to the right of the plaque leads you down around a bend where the tree will be visible on your left.
Know Before You Go
The tree is near the Douglaston Plaza Mall, and is accessible by foot from Alley Pond Park