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Please review our health & safety protocols prior to your visit: https://www.govisland.com/visit-the-island

Please review our health & safety protocols prior to your visit: https://www.govisland.com/visit-the-island

Learn more about Governors Island's flock of sheep

Five sheep arrived this spring from the Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm in Albany, NY to live in Governors Island’s Hammock Grove through the summer to help control invasive species like phragmites and mugwort, herbaceous plants that can dominate the landscape and stifle other plants’ growth.

These sheep, named Flour, Sam, Evening, Chad, and Philip Aries, will live in a shelter in Hammock Grove, where they will move between sections of the landscape that are inaccessible to the public to eat the invasive plants. The Trust for Governors Island’s horticultural team will care for them daily and monitor their progress and effectiveness as a method of controlling invasive plant species.

While in Hammock Grove, they will have plenty of space to graze within a Department of Health-mandated fence, which will be deployed as they move between sections of the landscape.

Hammock Grove Facts & Figures:

Hammock Grove is a seven-acre area located within the park on Governors Island’s southern end. Designed by West 8 and open to the public in 2014, Hammock Grove features an experimental urban forest with 1,200 trees of over 40 species. 50 red hammocks adorn the landscape, providing a place to kick back and enjoy peace and quiet during an Island visit.

Photo by Julienne Schaer

Sheep FAQs:

Why are these sheep here?
To help control invasive species in the forested areas of Hammock Grove, an urban forest with over 1200 young trees. Sheep help with invasive species, especially phragmites and mugwort, by eating them.

Why are mugwort and phragmites bad for the landscape?
Invasive species like mugwort and phragmites have a tendency to crowd out other plants, creating a monoculture.

Why are sheep good for controlling invasive species?
Invasive plants are difficult to remove without hours of time weeding and digging up the landscape, or using herbicide. Sheep especially enjoy grazing on these leafy invasive plants, breaking them down and eventually turning weeds into fertilizer to benefit the trees. They are very effective at controlling these species in hard-to-reach areas, making them an eco-friendly and efficient option for maintaining the health of the landscape and allowing our human gardeners to focus on other tasks.

Can visitors touch the sheep?
The sheep are busy at work and should not be disturbed. Visitors may not touch or feed the sheep. While they are very cute, the sheep should not interact with any people besides their designated caretakers.

Who takes care of the sheep?
The Trust for Governors Island’s Horticulture team and the gardeners of Hammock Grove, trained in compliance with the Department of Health, care for the sheep.

What do the sheep eat?
Sheep love herbaceous plants, such as grasses and flowering plants like mugwort and sunflower. These sheep have been eating phragmites for the past couple of years—it’s their favorite food.

Where do the sheep sleep?
The sheep have a shelter in Hammock Grove and will move between the Grove’s different sections during the day.

How long will the sheep live on Governors Island?
Until August, which is when most herbaceous invasive plants stop actively growing. Then they’ll return to the Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm, where they’ll continue to support the organization’s environmental education and justice initiatives. Learn more at friendsoftivoli.org.

Photo by Timothy Schenck