The Parks & Recreation leaf logo dates to the early Moses era, when Parks & Recreation was first consolidated into one agency. It was used on official documents and letterhead beginning in 1934. The type of leaf was never identified, but many believe it was drawn to resemble a London plane leaf. Scott Sendrow, Parks & Recreation’s historian, theorizes that a London plane leaf was chosen because the City began planting the highly pollution-resistant tree in the 1930s. Additionally, Jonathan Kuhn, Parks & Recreation’s Director of Art & Antiquities, notes that Robert Moses called the intra-agency newsletter, “The Sycamore,” which is another name for a London plane tree.
The Parks & Recreation leaf logo has changed over the years, as various graphic designers took a hand to it. The current Parks & Recreation leaf logo has been identified as a sycamore, a London plane, a maple, and a sycamore maple. There is no evidence that the current logo was modeled after a particular species of tree. It’s probably unlikely that any real leaf was ever emulated; graphic designers generally prize aesthetics over accuracy. Perhaps the best way for us to think of the Parks & Recreation leaf is as a representation of the Essence of Leaf—the platonic ideal of A Leaf from a New York City Street Tree. Or maybe we should keep calling it what it’s been called for years: “The Parks Leaf.”
Photos by Tyler Woodford, NYC Parks Archive, Nate Kelley, and Grégoire Allesandrini.