Queens, NY

Little Neck Pkwy., Commonwealth Blvd., S/O Grand Central Pkwy.

Historic House Museum

47.650 acres

Sponsor: Torrey Botanical Club

Date: September 29, 1979

Leader: James A. Trent and Andrew M. Greller

James A. Trent, President of the Queens County Farm Museum, led our Torrey group on a tour of the 18th century farmhouse.

The Queens County Farm Museum, founded in 1975, occupies what formerly constituted the farm of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. It consists of a remarkably unspoiled 52 acre tract on the outwash plain at the foot of the terminal moraine. A unique farmyard complex still survives, consisting of a wood-frame farmhouse originally constructed about 1765, with a circa 1840 extension, and a number of buildings dating from the 1930s, including brooder houses, wagon sheds, cow barn, garages, three green houses and a potting shed. There is a three acre apple orchard to the north of the farmhouse. Major cultivation of the farm ceased in 1960. The farmyard and seven acres of land have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and are a designated New York City Landmark.

By early 1980 the City of New York will assume title to the property from New York State, the present owners. Restoration of the buildings and grounds has been moving slowly since 1975 but is expected to move swiftly in late 1980 with a $275,000 construction contract to restore the exterior of the farmhouse and do some minor work on the other outbuildings including new utility connections. When fully restored in perhaps another five years, the Queens County Farm Museum will be New York City's only living historical farm recreation.

With Jim Trent and Andy Greller leading the way, we botanized the old fields, shrublands, prairies, and the terminal moraine. In the unmowed area near the farmhouse we found a field of yellow foxtail (Setaria lutescens) with Aster simplex. The aster had a lavender color form in addition to the more common white form. Also present here were Aster pilosus, cow vetch (Vicia cracca), and the ubiquitous Artemisia vulgaris. Walking west along the unpaved road we encountered a field that had grown up to a mixture of crab apples (Malus spp.). We sampled many of the ripe fruits, which varied widely in color (purple, red, yellow), size, and texture. In the old fields we spotted flickers, a large pheasant, and a hairy woodpecker. Some plants also seen here were

Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

Three-awn grass (Aristida sp.)

common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

a single groundsel tree (Baccharis halimifolia)

gray birch (Betula populifolia)

lamb's-quarter (Chenopodium album)

chicory (Cichorium intybus)

field thistle (Cirsium arvense)

flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria)

crabgrass (Digitaria sp.)

black walnut (Juglans nigra)

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Lychnis alba

sweet white clover (Melilotus alba)

carpetweed (Mollugo verticillata)

white mulberry (Morus alba)

panic grass (Panicum dichotomiflorum)

pokeberry (Phytolacca americana)

knot grass (Polygonum erectum?) in wood chips

Polygonum cespitosum

Polygonum scandens (on a chain link fence)

cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

smooth sumac (Rhus glabra)

Rosa multiflora

bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)


Solidago canadensis

S. graminifolia

S. juncea

S. nemoralis

S. rugosa

S. speciosa

Near Commonwealth Boulevard we turned north onto the terminal moraine. The area was heavily disturbed when a root cellar was constructed about 45 years ago. Tree of heaven is common here (Ailanthus altissima). A beautiful stand of Aster cordifolius, Aster laevis, and Solidago speciosa drew the admiration of our group.

We entered the woods and soon passed to the mature forest on the crest of moraine and on the south-facing slope that marks the front of the terminal moraine. Large individuals of black oak (Quercus velutina) dominated the canopy layer. Other trees

pignut (Carya glabra)

mockernut (Carya tomentosa)

chestnut, really a shrub (Castanea dentata)

sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

wild black cherry (Prunus serotina)

buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)

sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) was the dominant understory tree. Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) was the dominant shrub. Some wildflowers and grasses observed in the morainal woods were

autumn bent grass (Agrostis perennans)

white woodland aster (Aster divaricatus)

Solomon's-seal (Polygonatum pubescens)

dewberry (Rubus hispidus?)

cat briar (Smilax glauca)

false Solomon's-seal (Smilacina racemosa)

blue-stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia)

jumpseed (Tovara virginiana)

A single cultivated southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) grows in a clearing on the slope behind the mansion which stands atop the moraine. The clearing is filled with grape (Vitis aestivalis?); it threatens to engulf the magnolia. The magnolia was badly damaged during a recent cold winter but appears to be recovering.

We walked down the steep morainal slope and noted the persisting evidence of a serious fire of a few years ago, apparently the result of arson. Once on the flatland, at the base of the slope, we headed south toward the main road. We struggled through shrubby old fields with

common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis)

oriental bittersweet


many small trees of species noted above

Aster laevis and Solidago speciosa were especially well developed here -- the color was breathtaking.

We passed through patches of little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius) with hair-cap moss (Polytrichum commune). Also present in and near these patches were sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), juniper (Juniperus virginiana), and the aster and goldenrod. This community was interpreted as a type of prairie, which has developed since cultivation ceased. It is likely that outliers of the "little Plains" of Bellerose, were present as original vegetation here. The "Little Plains," a natural prairie that formed a northwestern extension of the "Hempstead Plains," was a prominent feature of Bellerose as recently as the 1920's. Frequent fires will be needed to maintain the Andropogon prairie, however, because Malus, Morus, Liquidambar, and other trees are encroaching on all sides.

The tired and torn Torreyites returned to the farmhouse for a late lunch. We petted the goats, sheep, and geese, browsed at the flea market, and reluctantly left for home. Attendance was 7.

Agrostis perennans autumn bent grass

Ailanthus altissima tree-of-heaven

Apocynum cannabinum Indian hemp

Aristida sp. three-awn grass

Artemisia vulgaris common mugwort

Asclepias syriaca common milkweed

Aster laevis

Aster divaricatus white woodland aster

Aster pilosus

Aster simplex

Aster cordifolius

Baccharis halimifolia groundsel tree

Betula populifolia gray birch

Carya tomentosa mockernut hickory

Carya glabra pignut hickory

Castanea dentata American chestnut

Celastrus orbiculatus Asiatic bittersweet

Chenopodium album pigweed

Cichorium intybus chicory

Cirsium arvense field thistle

Cornus florida flowering dogwood

Dianthus armeria deptford pink

Digitaria sp. crabgrass

Euthamia graminifolia grass-leaved goldenrod

Juglans nigra black walnut

Juniperus virginiana red cedar

Liquidambar styraciflua sweetgum

Liriodendron tulipifera tulip tree

Lonicera japonica Japanese honeysuckle

Magnolia grandiflora southern magnolia

Malus spp. crab apples

Melilotus alba sweet white clover

Mollugo verticillata carpetweed

Morus alba white mulberry

Myrica pennsylvanica bayberry

Onoclea sensibilis sensitive fern

Panicum dichotomiflorum panic grass

Phytolacca americana pokeberry

Polygonatum pubescens hairy Solomon's seal

Polygonum erectum? knotweed

Polygonum cespitosum knotweed

Polygonum scandens climbing false buckwheat

Polygonum virginiana jumpseed

Polytrichum commune haircap moss

Populus deltoides cottonwood

Portulaca oleracea purslane

Prunus serotina black cherry tree

Pteridium aquilinum bracken fern

Quercus velutina black oak

Rhamnus frangula buckthorn

Rhus glabra smooth sumac

Rosa multiflora multiflora rose

Rubus hispidus? dewberry

Rubus allegheniensis common blackberry

Sassafras albidum sassafras

Schizachyrium scoparium little bluestem grass

Setaria glauca yellow foxtail

Silene latifolia white campion

Smilacina racemosa false Solomon's-seal

Smilax glauca sawbrier

Solanum dulcamara bittersweet nightshade

Solidago caesia blue-stemmed goldenrod

Solidago speciosa showy goldenrod

Solidago rugosa rough goldenrod

Solidago nemoralis

Solidago juncea early goldenrod

Solidago canadensis Canada goldenrod

Viburnum prunifolium blackhaw viburnum

Vicia cracca cow vetch

Vitis aestivalis summer grape