Linnaeus Park

Linnaeus Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Located on 230th Street between 57th Avenue and 57th Road, this playground honors the contributions of Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778). The scientific community recognizes Linnaeus as the founder of the binomial system of species classification, a method of assigning names to birds and animals. Linnaeus was born in South Rashult, Sweden, the son of a minister. At the age of eight, the budding scientist was nicknamed “the little botanist.” In 1727, he attended university at Lund to study medicine primarily because of the botany program. The following year, Linnaeus began attending classes at the university in Uppsala, which offered better facilities and a well-established community of botanists. By 1730, he had joined the faculty at Uppsala.

His 2-volume work, Species plantarum, published in 1753, described plants in terms of genera and species. In 1758, the 10th edition of a previous work, Systema naturae, applied the system to animals. The name, always in Latin, consists of two words. The first, the genus, begins with a capital letter and describes the larger, more inclusive group to which the organism belongs. For example, dogs and wolves both belong to the genus Canis. The second word, the species, is not capitalized and is a narrower classification. A domesticated dog would be Canis familiaris, but a wolf would be Canis lupus. Linnaeus produced over 180 scientific treatises developing the modern system of classification that is used by botanists and zoologists to this day.

The City of New York acquired the property for Linnaeus Playground on November 26, 1957 through a condemnation proceeding by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. It was part of the defunct Oakland Golf Club, which the city had purchased to relocate Queens residents displaced by the construction of the Clearview Expressway. The City divided the relocation site into 105 lots and made improvements in the street system. In order to provide community recreation, the Board of Estimate transferred two acres to Parks on the day of purchase.

In 1989, Linnaeus Playground was renovated. The baseball field, the playground’s wooden fencing, the chain-link fencing, and drinking fountains were replaced. In honor of the legendary botanist, sixteen different species of flora were planted: bonfire sugar maple (Acer saccharum), sweet birch (Betula lenta), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), American sweetgum (Liquidambar styracifula), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), red oak (Quercus rubra), willow oak (Quercus phellos), pin oak (Quercus palustris), Redmond linden (Tilia x ‘Redmond’), rock spray (Cotoneaster microphyllus), winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus), hardy English ivy (Hedera helix), Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis), double kerria (Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’), and the London planetree (Platanus x acerfolia), a robust tree which early city planners planted all around New York City.

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