European ballast used for Red Hook landfill, 1879

The continued large trade balance in favor of the United States, during this time, has compelled a great many vessels, from want of freights on their westward trips from Europe, to come more or less laden with ballast. At the Atlantic Docks, Brooklyn, and on the Gowanus Creek, vessels have for many months discharging it without cessation, night and day. A large part of it has been dumped upon sunken lots in the vicinity …"

Addison Brown, 1879

Cargo ships are designed  to carry heavy weights, and without it they ride to high in the water and are unstable.  Ships not laden with enough goods would take on ballast, often in the form of sand or gravel to allow them to safely sail.  The November 1878 edition of the Torrey Botanical Club noted that European plants were being transported in the mix of ballast and taking root in Red Hook.  The practice was also expanding the amount of dry land.

An example of a ballast plant that came from Europe to Red Hook, Brooklyn, thrived here when the area was marshland and then immigrated accross the country to other marshy areas is the plant Veronica beccabunga, also known as European speedwell or brooklime.


Veronica beccabunga

Veronica beccabunga

Source: Image Source:Christiaan Sepp, illustrator. Jan Kops, author Flora Batava, Volume 6, 1832 (Illustrations of all plants in the Netherlands). Source: www.BioLib.deLink: View File Details Page



Item Relations

This Item is related to Item: Veronica beccabunga, Red Hook Imigrant Plant, c. 1840 


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