queen of the gowanus.

May 7, 2012
empress tree, gowanus

empress tree, union street bridge

empress tree, looking east

empress tree, pilings

empress tree, bridge
two chinese empress trees flank the gowanus canal at the union street bridge in brooklyn.  the color of the waterway is downright horrifying, and this week the contrast between the sludgy water and the purple trumpet-shaped flowers was enough to make me pause.

the empress trees themselves are a vestige of the canal’s shipping past, native to china where their seed pods were packed into ships carrying ceramics and used as protection for the precious cargo. as for the opaque waterway, the canal has been polluted from the moment of its completion in 1869. just two years ago the epa confirmed its status as toxic soup and declared it a superfund site. uncomfortable beauty, no?

other things:
the secret gowanus canal superfund tourism canoe map
the flora and fauna of the gowanus canal and its environs
a brief history of the slime

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8 Comments

  • Reply Sophie May 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    wow that is so interesting. toxic soup doesnt sound good. but those beautiful empress trees took my breath away! x

  • Reply tinajo May 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I had no clue! The pics are gorgeous, love the colors! 🙂

  • Reply sweet harvest moon May 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Beautiful!

  • Reply Sam | ashore May 7, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    the origin of the empress trees is so interesting, I love (love!) little tid-bits. It's the kind of thing locals tell you – like a legend, but better because it's true! And I understand what you mean about the uncomfortable way toxicity is sometimes beautiful – peeling paint and sludge.

  • Reply Cloe May 7, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Beautiful colors, bring some peace…

  • Reply janis May 8, 2012 at 3:44 am

    a sad juxtaposition, for sure. but we have to cling to that beauty!

  • Reply Vanessa {Vanilla and Rose} May 8, 2012 at 4:44 am

    I love odd combinations like this. You really can find beauty in the strangest places!

  • Reply Mary May 8, 2012 at 4:45 am

    We truly can find beauty almost everywhere. Here one doesn't have to look hard at all. The color of those blossoms is divine. 🙂 Too bad the canal is so polluted.. 🙁

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