2019-07-11

Grief and Gardening: Remains of the Day

Walking from my bus stop to work in the morning takes me across Broadway in Downtown Manhattan, the site of some celebration or other yesterday morning. Still this morning, littering the sidewalks, and especially the gutters, was "ticker tape". Of course, there are no tickers any more - it's all electronic. So this was all long, thin shreds of paper, individually unrecognizable in its drifts.

And in that moment, crossing Broadway, walking in to work, I was taken back 18 years.

The gutters were thick with shreds of paper, and ash, for weeks and months after 9/11. There was so much of it, it took that long for all of it to finally be washed away.

The gray ash was the last to go. In sheltered spots, it lingered for years. Even if you didn't want to know, certainly not think about it, you knew what it was.

Living and working in downtown after 9/11 was being in a crematorium. Every couple of years, you might hear about finding "remains". This is what they're talking about: some shards or shreds left behind, sheltered until uncovered by demolition or restoration of the ever-changing skin of the city.

And so did yesterday's remains, of a celebration, remind me of those weeks and months a lifetime ago. I wondered how few of those celebrating would understand the connection. How few around me had the same association.

Did they, too, feel alone in this?

St. Paul's Enshrouded

Related Content

Written live in a series of tweets on Twitter, typos and all: https://twitter.com/xrisfg/status/1149480485090820096

Grief & Gardening #2: Five Years After, "Ths Transetorey Life"

Links

2019-06-08

Sunday 6/23: Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants

Me hosting the NYCWW Pollinator Week Safari in my Front Yard. Photo: Alan Riback

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be hosting a pollinator-focused garden tour and citizen science workshop in my garden for Pollinator Week, in association with NYC Wildflower Week.

Event Details

Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Time: 1-4pm
Location: Brooklyn, NY, corner of Stratford Road and Matthews Place
Cost: FREE!
RSVP: Eventbrite

1-2pm: I'll be focusing in using iNaturalist to observe and identify insects in the garden. Create a free account on iNaturalist, and install the app on your smart phone. I'll show you how to make observations in the garden with your phone!
2-4pm: We'll explore the garden, see examples of how to garden for insects and pollinators, look at insect-plant associations happening in the garden, and, optionally, make observations with iNaturalist.

These times are a rough guide. You can drop by any time.

2019-02-12

Charismatic Mesofauna

Over the weekend I was inspired to write a little tweet storm. I thought it would make a good blog post.

Danaus plexippus, monarch butterfly (male), with @XercesSociety Pollinator Habitat sign behind, in my front yard, September 2016

It started with a blog post by entomologist Eric Eaton, who goes by @BugEric on his blog, Twitter and other social media. Benjamin Vogt, a native plants evangelist (my word, bestowed with respect) tweeted a link, which is how it came to my attention.
The Monarch is the Giant Panda of invertebrates. It has a lobby built of organizations that stand to lose money unless they can manufacture repeated crises. Well-intentioned as they are, they are siphoning funding away from efforts to conserve other invertebrate species that are at far greater risk. The Monarch is not going extinct
- Bug Eric: Stop Saying the Monarch is a "Gateway Species" for an Appreciation of Other Insects

2018-12-21

Standing Still in 2018

These days, I feel like a single candle, cursing the darkness, both literal and figurative.
A Single Candle

The Anthropocene weighs heavy on my mind, and heart:

2018-12-01

Grief and Baking: Rolled Holiday Butter Cookies

Today is World AIDS Day. By coincidence, the 41st president also just died, reminding me - and the cohort of survivors from his dark reign - how many more of us died on his watch from inaction, and more active hatred.

It's also my dad's mortiversary, the 10th anniversary of his death.

As I did ten years ago, I turned to baking. In anticipation of our upcoming tree-trimming party, and a hoped-for cookie-decorating side activity, I chose a rolling cookie recipe from King Arthur Flour. Since I'm unfamiliar with this type of cookie, I stayed as close as I could to the original recipe.

Holiday Butter Cookies, December 2018

I consider these a qualified success. There are some improvements I can make, mostly about technique. I'm happy with the basic recipe.

2018-11-30

Extinct Plants of northern North America 2018

I'm limiting this list to northern North America for two reasons:
  1. Restricting this list geographically is in keeping with my specialization in plants native to northeastern North America.
  2. There are many more tropical plants, and plant extinctions, than I can manage; for example, Cuba alone has lost more plant species than I've listed on this blog post. 
If you have additions to this list, please let me know, and provide a link which I can research.
  • Astilbe crenatiloba, Roan Mountain false goat's beard, Roan Mountain, Tennessee, 1885
  • Narthecium montanum, Appalachian Yellow Asphodel, East Flat Rock Bog, Henderson County, North Carolina, before 2004?
  • Neomacounia nitida, Macoun's shining moss, Belleville, Ontario, 1864
  • Orbexilum macrophyllum, bigleaf scurfpea, Polk County, North Carolina, 1899
  • Orbexilum stipulatum, large-stipule leather-root, Falls-of-the-Ohio scurfpea, Rock Island, Falls of the Ohio, KY, 1881
  • Thismia americana, banded trinity, Lake Calumet, IL, 1916

Extinct in the wild (IUCN Red List code EW)


  • Franklinia alatamaha, Franklin Tree

  • Extinct versus Extirpated

    I often come across misuse of the word "extinct," as in: native plant extinct in New York City.
    • "Extinct" means globally extinct. No living specimens exist anywhere in the world, not even in cultivation. 
    • "Extirpated" means locally extinct, while the species persists in other populations outside of the study area. To correct the above example: extirpated in New York City. Any regional Flora lists many extirpated species.
    When a species is known only from one original or remaining population, as those listed above were, loss of that population means extinction for the species. In this case, extirpation and extinction are the same thing.

    Another category is "extinct in the wild," when the species still exists under cultivation, like an animal in a zoo. A famous example of this is Franklinia alatamaha.

    Related Content

    Extinct Plants of northern North America 2015, 2015-11-29
    Extinct Plants of northern North America, 2014-11-30

    Links

    Wikipedia: List of extinct plants: Americas
    IUCN Red List: List of species extinct in the wild
    The Sixth Extinction: Recent Plant Extinctions
    Extinct and Extirpated Plants from Oregon (PDF, 5 pp)

    2018-11-01

    100 Years Ago

    On November 1, 1918, the worst transit disaster in New York City history occurred just outside Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The wooden cars of the Brighton Beach line of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (B.R.T.) company left the tracks, crashing inside the tunnel beneath the busy intersection where Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue and Malbone Street met [Google map]. The Malbone Street Wreck killed nearly 100 people and injured more than 250. Criminal trials and lawsuits arising from the accident dragged on for years, contributing to the bankruptcy of the BRT. The name "Malbone Street" became associated with the disaster; it's known today as Empire Boulevard.

    2018-08-19

    Plant Blindness and Urban Ecology

    A small patch of biodiversity - i.e.: weeds - from my driveway.
    Weeds in my driveway, August 2018

    A recent article in the Wall Street Journal has people talking about it, e.g.: on the Twitter. The term "plant blindness" has been in use for a while, especially among those of us intensely interested in the subject of plants, from gardeners to botanists.

    "Apps" and Social Media

    I've seen folks get more interested in plants when they can reduce, or eliminate, the risk of being shamed by others for ignorance. (Which is nothing to be ashamed of, nor to shame others for. We all start out ignorant. Choosing to remain so, on the other hand ...)

    2018-06-17

    NPILC 2018 - Speaker Notes and Handout

    2018-06-23: Updated with more links.

    Following is the outline, speaker notes, and references of my talk at this year's Native Plants in the Landscape Conference. This was to have been published as a speaker handout for attendees, but it never made it to the conference Web site. So I'm publishing it here.

    This isn't intended to stand alone. This post has many links to my blog posts and photos for further reading and viewing. And the presentation itself is available on Slideshare.

    2018-06-08

    NPILC 2018 - Books

    I spoke this year at the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference at Millersville University in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The organizers asked speakers for a list of books we recommend.

    Just a few of the books for sale at the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference 2018

    This is my list, grouped roughly by category.

    2018-04-29

    City Nature Challenge 2018

    Viola sororia, common blue violet, in the front yard, April 2018
    The "weedy" remnants of my front lawn, where Viola sororia, common blue violet, has taken charge. Easily overlooked, it seeds itself readily without any help from me (or any other gardener). Yet this species is native to New York City. It's one of my iNaturalist observations from my garden for this year's City Nature Challenge.



    Today, Sunday, April 29th, is day 3 of the global City Nature Challenge, which continues into tomorrow. Building on the explosive popularity of iNaturalist as a platform for observations, this gamified bioblitz pits cities against each other, to see which can identify more taxa of living species in a 96-hour period.

    NYC is currently is 6th place globally, and 4th nationally. There are still plenty of opportunities to join special events organized for New York City, with events in 4 of our 5 boroughs today, and more tomorrow.

    I wasn't able to take part in yesterday's festivities. This weekend, I have to get my garden ready for this season's garden tours. Armed with only my phone, I kept an eye out for anything I might see, uncover, or unearth. I was rewarded.


    2018-04-22

    Native Plant Acquisitions, Gowanus Canal Conservancy Plant Sale

    Today I made my way to my first Gowanus Canal Conservancy Native Plant Sale. Today is Earth Day 2018, and today's sale was held at their nursery location, the Salt Lot where Second Avenue ends at the Gowanus Canal. They have two more sales this season. The next, on May 19th, conflicts with the NYC Wildflower Week tour of my garden.

    Gowanus Canal Conservancy Salt Lot entrance, April 2018

    A wide range of species are listed are available on their nursery page. Not all of them are still in stock. In compensation, they had other unlisted species available at today's plant sale.

    2017-10-28

    Emerald Ash Borer Discovered in Prospect Park

    Terrible news.

    Until this announcement, Agrilus planipennis, emerald ash borer, or EAB for short, had been found throughout New York state, but the locations closest to NYC were in Westchester County. This is quite a leap. One of the ways invasive forest pests get spread is through moving firewood. I wonder if that was the case here.

    I live 1/2 mile south of Prospect Park. I am going to visit the ash trees in my neighborhood. They may not be here next year.


    Press release from Prospect Park Alliance, 2017-10-27:
    Today, the New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) and Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed the first-ever discovery of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in New York City in Prospect Park. Of an initial survey of 10 suspected trees in Prospect Park by Prospect Park Alliance—the non-profit that cares for the Park in partnership with the City, three were confirmed to be infested by this invasive pest by a Cornell University researcher.

    2017-10-27

    Remembering Sandy, Five Years Later

    Rockaway Beach Boulevard, between Beach 113th & 114th Streets, Rockaway Park, Queens, November 4, 2012Rockaway Beach Boulevard, between Beach 113th & 114th Streets, Rockaway Park, Queens, November 2012

    The storm surge flooded this block to at least five feet. Fire broke out and was quickly spread by 80-mph winds. These buildings burned down to the water line.

    This was the site of a heroic rescue by FDNY Swift Water Team 6 and other firefighters attached to this unit for rescues during the storm. Firefighters Edward A. Morrison and Thomas J. Fee received awards for their actions during these rescues.
    www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-166/issue-5...
    www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/pdf/publications/medal_day/2013/Med...

    Investigators later determined this fire was caused by downed electrical wires falling onto 113-18 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. 16 homes were destroyed by the fire.
    www.nydailynews.com/new-york/sea-water-surge-behind-serio...

    There was worse destruction than this on Beach 130th Street, between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach Channel Road. That fire started at 239 Beach 129 St. and destroyed 31 buildings.

    Related Content

    Links

    2017-04-30

    Blooming Now

    NYC-Native Species

    Asarum canadense, wild ginger

    Fragaria virginiana, Virginia strawberry

    Geranium maculatum

    Geum rivale, purple avens
    Geum rivale, water avens, purple avens

    Podophyllum peltatum, mayapple

    Polygonatum biflorum


    Rhododendron periclymenoides
    Rhododendron periclymenoides, pinxterbloom azalea

    Thalictrum thalictroides



    Vaccinium angustifolium, lowbush blueberry

    Vaccinium corymbosum, highbush blueberry

    Viola lanceolata, bog white violet

    Viola sororia, dooryard violet (several different varieties)

    Zizia aurea, golden alexanders

    Eastern Regional Native Species

    Dicentra eximia
    Fothergilla major
    Phlox stolonifera (in bud)
    Polemonium reptans, Jacob's ladder
    Sedum ternatum
    Stylophorum diphyllum, woodland poppy
    Tiarella cordifolia, foamflower
    Trillium grandiflorum, great white trillium

    2016-12-21

    Standing Still 2016

    Persephone with her pomegranate. Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Proserpine (Oil on canvas, 1874) - Tate Gallery, London


    This season's solstice (Winter in the Northern hemisphere, Summer in the Southern), occurs at 10:44 UTC, December 22, 05:44 Eastern Standard Time (UTC-05:00), December 21. Etymology: Latin solstitium (sol "sun" + stitium, from sistere "to stand still")
    The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, its apparent movement north or south comes to a standstill.
    - Solstice, Wikipedia
    This year feels darker than most. Yesterday, as expected, the U.S. presidential electorate election was affirmed. "Standing Still" takes on a different meaning if there's a chance the light won't return.

    A Single Candle

    So we light a candle against the darkness, and try to keep it lit. If I'm feeling hopeful, I might reflect on these lyrics from Peter Gabriel's song written in memory of Stephen Biko, who would have been 90 this past week:
    You can blow out a candle
    But you can't blow out a fire.
    Once the flames begin to catch
    The wind will blow it higher.
    Wishing for peace, wishing you peace, these dark days.

    This page has a little MIDI file which bangs out the tune so you can follow the score.

    Illumination of Earth by Sun at the southern solstice.

    Related Content

    Links

    Wikipedia: Solstice

    2016-12-03

    Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies

    This is an updated version of a recipe I published 3 years ago. This version reflects the adjustments I've made since then. I feel like I've perfected this one. If you try this recipe, let me know what you did and how it turned out in the comments!

    Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies, cooled and ready for consumption

    2016-08-07

    A milkweed by an other name ...

    What's in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    - Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Wiliam Shakespeare
    A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
    - Gertrude Stein, various
    I started to get into a little tiffle on a post (since removed) on one of the insect ID groups in Facebook. The original poster was trying to ID a tight cluster of orange eggs on a leaf of a plant she identified as "milkweed vine." One of the responders commented: "Milkweed vine? Not likely." And then we were off.

    2016-06-24

    Coccinella novemnotata, nine-spotted lady beetle, aka "C9"

    New York State Gardeners: You can help re-introduce our state insect! See Links below.

    A decade ago, shortly after I launched this blog, I wrote the following:
    [Coccinella] novemnotata was once common. How did New York State get to have a once-native-but-no-longer-resident state insect?
    Not just common; C. novemnotata, or C9 for short, was once the most common lady beetle in the eastern U.S.

    2016-05-28

    Eastern Native Groundcovers

    I started to reply to a Facebook post and quickly realized I had enough content for a blog post.
    Hello from Long Island NY..looking for suggestion for ground cover that won't eat my plants. I would like somthing a bit tamer the vinca . The area is slightly damp..part sun/part shade. Any suggestions. See posted pics! Thanks!!
    The accompanying photos show a mix of young trees, shrubs, and perennials in a nice non-lawn streetside garden. The photos show a lot of sun, with some shade. The shade will increase over time as the trees and shrubs fill in.

    Another commenter suggested Lamium and Galium, neither of which I would describe as "tame." Either can take over an area in the right conditions.

    These are some of the Eastern North American species I've grown and can recommend as groundcover. Some of these prefer shade, some prefer sun. Most of these will spread by runners, stolons, and the like, as "true" groundcovers. Others are effective as groundcovers because of their habit and crown expansion over time.