Standing Still, Looking Ahead

Illumination of Earth by Sun at the southern solstice.

This season's Solstice (Winter in the Northern hemisphere, Summer in the Southern), occurs at 17:47pm UTC on December 21, 2008. That's 12:47 PM where I am, in the Eastern Time zone.
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
We got about 10" of snow over the weekend, and it's not going anywhere soon. So it's definitely wintery here. Here's another of my neighbors' illuminary displays.
9 Lewis Place, Beverley Square West


It Begins

Update, 2009-12-26: Holiday Lights 2009

The Wizard of Slocum Place does it again, with help from his next-door neighbor.

284 Stratford Road, Beverley Square West

For best effect, view this photo on a black background.

I took this snapshot last night with my little Nikon P&S while walking home from dinner at Mimi's Hummus on Cortelyou Road with Blog Widow. Tonight's snow will create an ideal wintery photo-op.


Names, World AIDS Day (Off-Topic)

2021-12-01: See Names, 2021-12-01
In observance of World AIDS Day, I thought I would re-publish this list of names from my old (neglected and needing to be retired) Web site. These are some of the people, all men, I lost, nearly all to AIDS. I stopped actively maintaining this list in 1994. In alphabetical order.

  • William "Wolf" Agress, a lover, died in 1990
  • Andre, a bartender at the Tunnel Bar in the East Village, now defunct
  • Vincent Barnes
  • Jerry Bihm
  • Bobby
  • Colin Curran
  • Erez Dror, co-owner and -founder of the Black Hound Bakery in the East Village, New York City, now defunct
  • Jeff Glidden, a lover
  • Paul "Griff" Griffin
  • Martin Noel Jorda
  • David Kirschenbaum, community organizer with the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
  • Art Kohn, founder of the BackRoom BBS in New York City, now defunct
  • Jim Lewis
  • Luis
  • John Mangano
  • Jeffrey Martin
  • Morris Matthews
  • Karl Michalak
  • Mark Melvin
  • Norm
  • Tony Panico, my first lover in New York City
  • Charles Pope, barfly extraordinaire
  • Gordon Provencher, 1955-1992
  • Tom Raleigh
  • Craig Rodwell, founder of the Oscar Wilde Bookstore in Greenwich Village, NYC
  • Tony Rostron
  • Jurgen Schmitt
  • Giulio Sorrentino
  • Buddy Volani
  • Jeremy Wells
  • David Joseph Wilcox, 1957-1996


Ginkgo Gone Wild

The Ginkgo Walk at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, November 2008.
Ginkgo Walk

Another Brooklyn blogger reports:
One crisis I've been tasked with dealing with [from a co-op board meeting] is one of our ginkgo trees in the front of our building has apparently decided to change its sex - from male to female; or at least one branch of it has done so.
- Thoughts While Looking Up, Ink Lake, 2009-11-17

Ginkgo biloba is a dioecious species, with male and female flowers on different plants (usually). The fruit of Ginkgos, which arise only from the flowers of female plants, is notoriously messy and smelly, hence the co-op's concern. We had a close encounter with some on the Sustainable Flatbush Street Tree Walking Tour a few weeks ago.

The gender of dioecious flowering plants can't be determined until they flower; male and female plants must be selected and copied through vegetative propagation techniques as cultivars, i.e.: clones. Hollies, Ilex, are also dioecious, and gardeners who want berries on their Hollies must purchase known-female cultivars and ensure that compatible males are close enough for pollination.

Flowers on the female cultivar of Ilex verticillata, Winterberry, in my backyard native plant garden. The sticky stigma, which receives the pollen from the flowers of the nearby male plant, is clearly visible in the center of the flower.
Ilex verticillata, Winterberry (female)

The ability of dioecious plants to change gender has been observed before, though it's unusual. The mechanisms by which individual plants "choose" their gender remains unknown; the accelerating capabilities of genetic technology are likely to change this. If any reader has some good references, please share them in a comment below.


Flatbush Daffodil Project - 11/14 & 11/15

11/14 ONLY - CANCELLED due to rain (remains of Hurricane Ida). Join us Sunday, 11/15, for a beautiful day of Daffodil bulb planting!

Daffodil bulb

Join Sustainable Flatbush and your fellow urban gardeners to beautify neighborhood tree beds by planting daffodil bulbs!

The Daffodil Project was originally created to commemorate September 11th; a Dutch bulb grower donates 500,000 bulbs each year to NYC community groups who plant them in neighborhoods all over the five boroughs. This year, New Yorkers for Parks distributed more than 125,000 Daffodil bulbs for planting throughout the City. Sustainable Flatbush received 500 bulbs for planting in tree beds and other public areas in our neighborhood.

This will be Sustainable Flatbush's second year of co-sponsoring the Daffodil Project locally. If you enjoy gardening, feel like digging in some dirt, or if you just want to delight in the company of your neighbors, join us this weekend!

WHAT: Flatbush Daffodil Project
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, November 14th and 15th, from 10:00am until 12:00pm
WHERE: Meet in front of Vox Pop Cafe at 9:45, 1022 Cortelyou Road (corner of Stratford Road)

(Please note: rain cancels this event! Call us at 718-208-0575 if in doubt)


BK DECAY: Brooklyn Community Leaf Composting, 11/7&8, 11/14&15, & 11/21&22

Update 2009-11-21: In just 4 hours over 2 days, the Flatbush CommUNITY Garden diverted 1,740 lbs of leaves from landfill to compost which will enrich the Garden and more of Brooklyn's urban farms and gardens. As Director of the Urban Gardens and Farms Initiative of Sustainable Flatbush, I want to thank everyone who participated, whether by planning, volunteering, or dropping off leaves.

Cherry Leaves, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, November 2008
Cherry Leaves

Until 2007, NYC collected and composted residential leaves. For the second year, 20,000 tons of leaves will be treated like household garbage, added to the City’s already-overburdened waste stream. Sign the petition to restore leaf composting to NYC.

Stepping into the void left by the City's abandonment of leaf composting, more than a dozen Brooklyn community gardens, as well as gardens in other boroughs, have banded together in partnership with the GreenBridge Community Garden Alliance of Brooklyn Botanic Garden,  Council on the Environment of NYC, bk farmyards, Vokashi, and the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition,

Over the next three weekends, from 11am to 1pm, Brooklyn residents can bring leaves, free of trash, twigs and branches, in clear plastic or paper bags to one of the locations marked with a blue pin on this map. Not every garden is participating on all dates, so check the garden nearest you to see when you can drop-off in your neighborhood.

View larger map

Information will be available at many of the participating gardens about how to make compost in your own garden or apartment and about efforts to encourage the City to reinstate its municipal leaf collection and composting program.

The Flatbush CommUNITY Garden is participating on two dates: this Sunday, November 8, and Saturday, November 21. The drop-off will be at 1550 Albemarle Road, near Buckingham Road (East 16th Street). The Garden is a project of Sustainable Flatbush, part of the Urban Gardens & Farms initiative.


Who Cares About Honeybees, Anyway?

2021-10-26: Scraped and back-dated from an Internet Archive copy of Garden Rant.

Originally published as a Guest Rant on Garden Rant on November 4, 2009. The original is no longer available on their Web site.

Subgenus *Agapostemon*, male, on NOID *Helianthus*, perennial sunflower, along my driveway, August 2009 
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been making the news rounds for a few years now. It's old, if still current, news. Dire outcomes from the loss of honeybees have been proffered. For example, PBS recently introduced an online "ask the expert" feature with this:
Since the winter of 2006, millions of bees have vanished, leaving behind empty hives and a damaged ecosystem. 

- Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster, PBS Blog
Really? The ECOSYSTEM?! Did they not notice that honeybees aren't part of the ecosystem? 

Honeybees are livestock. They are animals which we manage for our uses. We provide them with housing and maintenance. We even move them from field to field, just as we let cows into different pastures for grazing.

Perhaps, if CCD can neither be prevented nor cured, disaster would come to pass. However, the underlying cause would not be the loss of the honeybees but our dependence on them as a consequence of unsustainable agricultural practices.

The old ways of farming include hedgerows, uncultivated areas between fields. The biodiversity of these patches provide substantial habitat for native pollinators, as well as other beneficial insects. When even these rough “unproductive” patches of land are cleared, we set the stage for the patterns that have come to dominate agriculture: more herbicides, more pesticides, more machinery. All of these also damage the soil food webs that support both soil fertility and agricultural ecosystems. Although  manufactured inputs provide temporary relief, they reduce the ecological functions of the land, requiring more and greater inputs to achieve the same effect. This is the definition of addiction, and it’s a clear sign that this way of doing business is unsustainable.

Why do we need to ship and truck pollinators around? There are plenty of native pollinators to do the job, where we haven't decimated their habitats. There are 4,000 species of bees alone in North America. 226 species are known in New York City. Many of them visit my gardens in Flatbush, Brooklyn; some have even taken up residence. Many native bees are ground-dwellers which need only some open ground in which to dig their nests. When every patch of ground is cultivated, plowed under or paved over, native pollinators disappear. Suddenly, we “need” honeybees for pollination.

I care about the honeybees. I like my honey and beeswax candles. I support efforts to legalize beekeeping in New York City. But not at the expense of the biodiversity that is all around us, even in the city, if only we care enough to look for it, value it, and nurture it.

Related Content

Cellophane Bees Return, 2009-05-02


Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster. [http://www.pbs.org/engage/blog/ask-%E2%80%9Csilence-bees%E2%80%9D-expert-dr-diana-cox-foster], PBS Blog 

Saving [Honey] Bees: What We Know Now [About CCD] http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/saving-bees-what-we-know-now/], NY Times, 2009-09-02


We Are the Champion ... Trees!

Via Press Release from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Brooklyn, New York—October 26, 2009—On Tuesday, October 27 at 2:45 p.m., the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will award two trees at Brooklyn Botanic Garden “State Champion” status, affirming that they are the largest of their species on record in the state. The trees, a Kansas hawthorn (Crataegus coccinoides) and a Carolina holly (Ilex ambigua var. monticola) are the first trees in New York City to receive this honor. Only native or naturalized, nonhybrid species are eligible for champion designation. These specimens were nominated by a private citizen and their dimensions verified by the DEC.


Saturday, October 24: Meet the Trees

Fraxinus americana, White Ash, one of the street trees that will be on the tour.
Fraxinus americana, White Ash, 1216 Beverly Road

On Saturday, October 24, Sustainable Flatbush will host its first Fall Street Tree Walking Tour. And I'm looking forward to once again be one of the guides for the tour.


Brooklyn, NY October 16, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009—Rain or Shine

Based on the success of the annual walking tour events in celebration of Arbor Day and spring in bloom, Sustainable Flatbush is now introducing the inaugural Fall Street Tree Walking Tour. The tour guides will be Tracey Hohman, professional gardener, and Chris Kreussling, aka Flatbush Gardener, both neighborhood residents.


Trees for the Future, Blog Action Day 2009

Like Garden Rant, global warming and climate change is a recurring topic on this blog:
The impacts of climate change to urban areas, such as New York City, will be extreme. Today, a typical NYC summer has 15 days with temperatures over 90F, and 2 days over 100F. By the end of this century, even optimistic scenarios, in which we reduce emissions and greenhouse gases starting NOW, NYC will have 39 90F days, and 7 100F days. In a typical summer. Some summers will be worse. People will die. If we do nothing, it will be worse.

I've written a lot about more immediate benefits of city trees, such as reduced flooding, summer cooling, and improved air quality. There remain opportunities for nurturing our urban forests. Addressing climate change is one more reason to do so:
Urban trees help offset climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide in their tissue, reducing energy used by buildings, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel based power plants. Our City’s trees store about 1.35 million tons of carbon valued at $24.9 million. In addition, our trees remove over 42,000 tons of carbon each year.
- Benefits of NYC's Urban Forest, MillionTreesNYC
Planting trees is one thing a gardener can do that will outlive them. But what world will my tree grow into? And what are its chances for survival in that world? I must avoid trees that are already at the southern limit of their range in NYC; by the end of the century, the climate will have escaped them. Trees can't move fast enough to keep pace with the changes that are coming, that are already happening. They will need our help to survive.
I feel compelled to act as a guardian of my little area of the world, for as long as it, and I, last. Though I have always had, and expect I always will have, a troubled relationship with "community," perhaps there is one I can be part of which will "watch over a much larger area." It is my belief, my hope, that collectively we will create, and find in each other, that community.
- July 26, 2006: The Bemidji Statement On Seventh Generation Guardianship
The whole world is now our Ark, and we are its Noah. It's going to be a long ride.


Daffodil Project 2009

Update 2009.10.18: Kensington date of 10/18 was rained out. Rain date is 10/25.

The Daffodil Project 2009 distribution at the Greenmarket in Grand Army Plaza, outside Prospect Park, Saturday, October 10, 2009
Daffodil Project Distribution, Grand Army Plaza, October 2009
The Daffodil Project was originally created to commemorate September 11. ... The Daffodil Project is made possible in part by the generosity of a Dutch bulb supplier, Hans van Waardenburg of B&K Flowerbulbs, who has pledged to donate 500,000 daffodil bulbs to the project each year as long as there are volunteers willing to plant them. More than 20,000 volunteers have responded to his challenge so far. And thanks to their efforts, more than 3 million yellow daffodils [bloomed] in over 2,000 individual sites across the five boroughs in the spring of 2009.
- The Daffodil Project, New Yorkers for Parks
Here are some locations in Brooklyn where you can get your bulb on with the Daffodil Project this season.


Blessing of the Animals, Chelsea Community Church

Update 2009-10-12: Added story about Smokey.

Blog Widow and Annie, the new kitten, at the Blessing of the Animals service at Chelsea Community Church earlier today.
Blog Widow and Annie

An off-topic, i.e. non-gardening, post.

In some recognition of National Coming Out Day, some non-gardening factoids about me:
  • I'm an atheist.
  • My partner, known as Blog Widow, is an ordained minister, among many other talents.
  • People who've known me a long time think that's hysterical.
It takes some enticement to get me into church. Filling the pews with dogs and other companion animals kinda does it for me.

This is also an opportunity to introduce Annie.

Annie is a six-month old kitten we adopted two weeks ago from Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Kensington. We've been wanting to adopt a second cat, thinking that Ripley, the old soul, would do better with some companionship when we're out during the day. Ummm, yeah. That'll work. Eventually.

Today was Annie's "coming out," as we took her to the Blessing of the Animals service at Blog Widow's church, Chelsea Community Church. Mostly dogs were present; Annie was one of four cats, by my count, in attendance. She even made an appearance on stage when Blog Widow introduced her to the congregation for his general blessing over those assembled, human and otherwise.

Blog Widow and Annie


Save the Campus Road Garden in Flatbush

Update, 2009-10-09: The Daily News has picked up the story, a few days after it's been in the Brooklyn Blogosphere.

Campus Road Garden, South Midwood, Flatbush, Brooklyn, August 2008
Campus Road Garden

The fate of the Baltic Street Garden in Park Slope was, unfortunately, sealed months ago. And now Flatbush' 14-year old Campus Road Garden is threatened by Brooklyn College's plans to build a parking lot in its place.

View Brooklyn Community Gardens in a larger map
The garden has a [long] history and a lot of love, sweat and passion went into creating the garden and sustaining it through the years.

The college has made beautiful new additions to the campus: building, walkways, etc.

However, the garden, which lies at the foot of the athletic field, is going to be bulldozed to make room for a small parking lot.

As you can imagine we are all saddened by this. Each member joined for their own reasons, but the bottom line is, we all come together as a community and we cherish the friendships we have made with fellow gardeners, the Brooklyn College community and, of course, the neighborhood.
- Letter from the author of Snowballs and Candy Corn
Here's how you can help.
  1. Sign the online petition: Stop the Demolition of the Campus Road Garden. (You'll be prompted to contribute through PayPal, but you can ignore that.)
  2. On Facebook, join the group Stop the Demolition of Campus Road Garden! to stay informed.


Brooklyn Leaf Composting Project

A Brooklyn-wide effort to organize locally and restore leaf composting to Brooklyn! There's a brainstorming meeting TOMORROW, Saturday, October 3, at Ozzie's Cafe in Park Slope. See below for full details.
Please join your fellow community gardeners and our friends from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a brainstorming session that will focus on how we can expand and improve community leaf collection and recycling this fall.

As you know, the City will not be collecting leaves separately from regular trash, again, this fall. That means that it's up to us to find ways to take this rich source of garden nutrients out of the wastestream and bring it into our gardens, where it will do the most good.

Building on a very successful leaf collection and recycling project that was implemented at 6/15 Green garden last year, we hope to coordinate a Brooklyn-wide project that will enable local community gardens to be collection points for bagged leaves from their neighbors for use in the community gardens....and possibly even distributed back to the community in the future.

This is truly a win/win for everyone. Gardens will benefit from the addition of wonderful leaves that they can use as mulch or make into "brown gold" compost and residents will be able to recycle their leaves knowing that they will not be wasted clogging up our landfills.


Fall Approaches, 2009

September Dogwood, Beverly Road, Flatbush, Brooklyn, 2009September Dogwood

My clear signal for the onset of Spring is the blooming of Snowdrops, Galanthus species. The reddening leaves of Dogwoods, Cornus species, tell me that Fall has really begun in my neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Soon to come are the yellows of the Locust trees, Gleditsia and Robinia species, and the psychedelic rainbows of White Ash, Fraxinus americana. The big show is put on by the Maples and Oaks.

Conditions are ideal for spectacular foliage this year. We've had ample rains over the summer following near-record Spring rains. The NY State Foliage Forecast predicts that peak foliage will reach New York City around the last week of October. This timing couldn't be more perfect. On Saturday, October 24, fellow gardener Tracey Hohman and I will be guiding the first Fall Foliage Street Tree Walking Tour for Sustainable Flatbush. We'll be walking the same route we've visited the past two Springs, so participants can see the same trees this Fall that they've seen in the Spring.

Sustainable Flatbush Street Tree Walking Tour, Arbor Day 2009. That's me in the middle, next to the tree. Photo by Keka


Happy September Equinox 2009

Bas-relief in Persepolis. On the day of an equinox, the power of an eternally fighting bull (personifying the Earth) and that of a lion (personifying the Sun) are equal. The September equinox marks the first day of Mehr or Libra in the Persian calendar. Photo: Anatoly Terentiev

The September equinox (autumnal in the northern hemisphere, vernal in the southern) occurs today, September 22, at 21:18 UTC. Daylight Savings Time puts me at UTC-4, so 17:18, or 5:18pm, local time.

Illumination of the Earth by the Sun on the day of an equinox
Illumination of the Earth by the Sun on the day of an equinox


Cortelyou Road Park, Park(ing) Day NYC

Park(ing) Gnome, Cortelyou Road Park, Flatbush, Brooklyn, 16:42 (4:42 pm)
Park(ing) Gnome, Cortelyou Road Park, Flatbush, Brooklyn

Worms!, 16:26 (4:26 pm)

Bulldog Puppy, 15:27 (3:27 pm)
Bulldog Puppy

Solar-powered Boom-box Experiment, 13:24 (1:24 pm)
Solar-Powered Boom-box Experiment

Ronny Wasserstrom and his amazing egg-juggling egg puppet, 12:54
Cortelyou Road Park, Park(ing) Day NYC, 2009

Biophilia in action, 11:29
Cortelyou Road Park, Park(ing) Day NYC, 2009

Cortelyou Road Park, Flatbush, Brooklyn, 11:09
Cortelyou Road Park, Park(ing) Day NYC, 2009

An international event, with 55 sites this year in NYC, Park(ing) Day highlights the public space that is devoted to streets and parking. For one day only, groups transform a parking space into a public park. These creative and active sites suggest alternative purposes for such space that can benefit more people in a wider range of uses than storing an empty personal transportation vehicle.

Cortelyou Road Park is a project of the Livable Streets initiative of Sustainable Flatbush. As the Director of the Urban Gardens & Farms initiative of Sustainable Flatbush, I loaned much of my garden furniture and container plants to help transform a parking space on busy Cortelyou Road into a garden room.

We're having a great time, and the day is not quite half over as I write this first post of the day. I'll be trying to update during the day. You can also follow me today on Twitter.




Bring me the head of the Juniper Valley Tree-Killer

Over the weekend, 12 newly planted trees were destroyed at Juniper Valley Park in Queens. This incident marks the fourth case of tree damage this year at the park and a $2,500 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in this arborcide. It is believed that the trees were cut with an electric saw, either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. They were just planted in the park this past spring. Ten were cherry trees and two were oaks.
- Parks Asks the Community's Assistance in Nabbing Juniper Valley Park Tree Killer, Press Release, 2009-09-16

View Larger Map


Cortelyou Road Park, this Friday, 9/18

Cortelyou Road Park, Flatbush, Brooklyn, Park(ing)Day NYC 2008
Cortelyou Road Park, Park(ing)Day NYC 2008

On Friday, September 18th, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, a park will be born: Sustainable Flatbush will transform a single 8’x15’ parking spot into a green space, complete with grass, plants, and seating. “Cortelyou Road Park,” in front of the Cortelyou Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, at the corner of Cortelyou and Argyle Roads, in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, is one of 50+ sites around New York City participating in Park(ing) Day, an international event.

I'm participating again this year. We'll be recreating a garden room in the parking spot, like we did last year, as you can see in the photo above.

Flatbush Frolic 2009

Sunday, I tabled for Sustainable Flatbush at the Flatbush Frolic. For the second year, Sustainable Flatbush presented an Environmental Fair at the Frolic, partnering with organizations that represent their four main initiatives: Energy Solutions, Livable Streets, Zero Waste, and Urban Gardens & Farms.

Now in its 33rd year, the Flatbush Frolic is one of a handful of street fairs that stands out from the hundreds NYC hosts annually. The Frolic is locally organized, and features local businesses and organizations.

Because I spent most of the day tabling, I didn't get to see much of the Frolic, but here's some of what I did see.


Brine Garden, Pawling, NY

A path in the Brine Garden in Pawling in Dutchess County, NY, north of New York City.
Path, Brine Garden

Last Sunday, Blog Widow and I drove up to Pawling, NY and spent the day with a friend of ours. I also got to meet Julia and Duncan Brine. In their landscape design firm, they specialize in native plants, so I was excited to meet them and visit their gardens.

The gardens ramble over six acres. In contrast to the familiar limitations of urban gardening, it may as well have been 600 acres. The property slopes, steeply at times, from the unpaved entrance drive down to Route 22. Water flows through the property. The day of my visit, precipitation seamlessly cycled through mist, drizzle, sprinkles. There was nearly a film of water over the gardens. I'm not exaggerating. My friend's sneakers became soaked just from walking through the long, wet grass. And it was wet enough for this fellow to crawl over the ground to his burrow of mud at the base of a log.

Crayfish, Brine Garden

With the almost constant rains we've had this summer, everything was lush, full, and green. The rampant growth encroached from all sides, overtaking and disguising any intended boundaries of the cleared areas. This contributed to the fluid expression of "path" at play in the Brine Garden. Narrows suggest passage; wider bays encourage a slower pace.

Sunny Border, Brine Garden

Border, Brine Garden

Solidago, Goldenrod, Brine Garden

Grassy Path, Brine Garden

Related Content

Brine Garden, Pawling, NY, Flickr photo set


Brine Garden


Study Guide for BBG Plant ID Class

Clerodendrum bungei Steud., Rose Glory Bower
Clerodendrum bungei

This Wednesday I take the final for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Herbaceous Landscape Plant Identification class. [Spelling counts! So please let me know of any typos.] Thursday, I start Urban Garden Maintenance, the last of the eight classes I need for my Certificate in Urban Horticulture from BBG. I started the program in Winter 2008. This is the home stretch; I can't believe I'm almost done with it.

Unlike the "woodies" class, I already knew most of the plants introduced in the class over the past five weeks. Either I've grown them myself sometime over my 30 years of gardening in NYC, or I've researched and studied them. However, there have been several, such as the interesting Clerodendrum above, which I've never even heard of, or never knew the names of.

This post is the index to my photographic study guide. Plant names are listed by week, in alphabetical order by botanical name within each week. Botanical names are given, corrected for typos, as they were introduced in the class; that's what we'll be tested on for the final this Wednesday evening. Plant names are linked to my Flickr Set, where I have one. You can also browse my Flickr Collection for this class, where all the plants are listed by botanical name.

Week 1, 2009.07.22

Callirhoe involucrata, Purple Poppy-Mallow
Callirhoe involucrata, Poppy Mallow

Omitted (these will not be included on the final):
  • Aquilegia canadensis, Columbine. This grows as a Spring ephemeral in our region; none were available to observe at this late date.
  • Geranium macrorrhizum, Bigroot Geranium. Omitted primarily for time constraints; also, it was out of bloom by this time of the year. Too bad, since it's a handsome plant, and there are lots of them around the grounds of BBG.

Week 2, 2009-07-29

We got 11 plants this week to make up for being two short the previous week.

Week 3, 2009-08-05

Week 4, 2009-08-12

This was the only themed week of the class, consisting solely of grasses, ferns and fern allies.

Pennisetum alopecuroides, Fountain Grass
Pennisetum alopecuroides, Fountain Grass

Week 5, 2009-08-19

The last class before the in-class final.

Angelica gigas, Purple Angelica
Angelica gigas


Sphecius speciosus, Eastern Cicada Killer

Although I've lived in Brooklyn since 1992, I didn't encounter Sphecius speciosus, the Eastern Cicada Killer, until we moved to Flatbush in 2005. It was summer, and I was working outside in the garden. Suddenly, here was the biggest wasp I had ever seen, large and loud, buzzing around my driveway and digging into the lawn next to it. I freaked out. I hosed out the burrow and destroyed the nest.

I regret having done that. I attribute my over-reaction partially to the stresses of being a first-time homeowner. I now find them beautiful. I consider myself lucky that we live in an urban area where these specialists can thrive. Besides, they are much too busy during their short adult lives to bother with people.

Sphecius speciosus, Eastern Cicada Killer, with prey, just inside the Eastern Parkway entrance of the Osborne Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, August 2009
Sphecius speciosus, Eastern Cicada Killer

They have a fascinating, if gruesome by human standards, life history. It could easily be the inspiration for the xenomorph of the Alien movie series.

After mating, the female digs out a deep tunnel leading to a multi-chambered nest. They're impressive excavators. This debris pile appeared overnight alongside our driveway and sidewalk in August of 2012. The concrete curb is 3" high.
Burrow of Sphecius speciosus, Eastern Cicada Killer

Here's the entrance to a nest in Cattus Island Park in Toms River, in the coastal pine barrens of New Jersey, in August of 2011. Note there are 4 different colors of sand, showing the different layers, and depths, the female reached.
Nest, Sphecius speciosus, Eastern Cicada Killer

The female then hunts for and captures an adult cicada, paralyzing it with its sting without killing it. It returns with the cicada to its burrow, dragging it into one of the chambers of the nest. It lays a single egg on the cicada. It repeats this process several times. The female dies soon after egg-laying.

Sphecius speciosus, Eastern Cicada Killer, with prey, at the Flatbush CommUNITY Garden, July 2008
Spechius speciosus, Eastern Cicada Killer

When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the still-living cicada. When the cicada hs been completely consumed, the larva spins a cocoon and overwinters as a pre-pupa. In Spring it emerges from the cocoon as a pupa, eventually metamorphosizing and emerging as adults, male and female, for mating and renewing the cycle.

Dog-day Cicada (annual Cicada) in Prospect Park, July 2008
Dog-day Cicada

Cicada killers are solitary wasps. Males emerge from pupal cases in mid-July to early August, a few weeks before the females. The males tunnel out of the ground, leaving telltale holes, and select a territory that they actively defend. Females mate soon after emerging, and then begin digging burrows in the ground using their mandibles and legs. The burrows can be several feet deep with numerous branches.

Once construction is complete, the female searches in trees and shrubs. Upon capturing a cicada, the female stings it injecting venom. Then, she carries the cicada back to the burrow, where she lays an egg on its living, but paralyzed body. Within two weeks, the egg hatches into a larva, eats the cicada, and develops into a pre-pupa, the stage at which it will spend the winter. Cicada killers are active in late summer, the same time that cicadas are present. By September, most adults have died.

Although visually alarming, these wasps pose little threat. Females are not aggressive and rarely sting, unless excessively provoked. Males often display territorial behavior and will dive-bomb people’s heads; however, they have no sting and pose no real threat.

- Cicada Killer, Master Beekeeper Program, Cornell University
Felis catus ssp. cicadakilleratus 'Ripley' on my back porch, August 2009
Ripley with Cicada

I was prompted to write this in response to a message sent out on the Flatbush Family Network:
We seem to have an underground yellow jacket nest on our front walkway with a "Queen" that is about 2.5 inches long.....a little frightening to me but will absolutely scare the wits out of my kids- she looks like she can carry her own luggage! Anyone know an exterminator that can come and get rid of this Quick!?

Thanks, Lori

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Dog-Day Cicadas, 2008-07-11
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University of Kentucky Entomology
Ohio State University Extension


Eristalis transversa, Transverse Flower Fly

This beautiful creature is not a bee. It's a fly of the Syrphidae, a family of flies renowned for bee mimics. This is Eristalis transversa, Transverse Flower Fly. I had noticed it in my garden for the first time this summer. yesterday was the first chance I had to capture some photos of it. Consider this a belated Garden Blogging Bloom Day post, but with a native pollinator as the focal point.

Eristalis transversa, Transverse Flower Fly

Eristalis transversa, Transverse Flower Fly

The flower it's visiting is Aster novae-angliae 'Chilly Winds', a selection of the native New England Aster from Seneca Hills Perennials in upstate New York. This plant has been a pollinator magnet in my backyard native plant garden for weeks. It's massive and overgrown and poorly placed, crowding out everything else around it. I'll have to find it another place for next year.


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BugGuide page
Seneca Hills Perennials


Flatbush Rezoning Proposal approved by City Council

Updated 2009-07-30: Added more links.

Today the City Council approved the Flatbush Rezoning Proposal. Brooklyn Community Board 14 posted this statement on their Web site: "We greatly appreciate the hard work of our elected officials, the neighborhood associations and their able leadership, and particularly the great staff at the Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning for making this happen!" Knowing that the Council also sealed the fate of Coney Island, i.e.: Miami Beach, tempers my satisfaction with the outcome for Flatbush.

As some relief for today's beastly weather, please enjoy this scene of one of the hundreds of homes now protected with today's vote.
284 Stratford Road, Beverley Square West


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Flickr photo set

CPC approves Flatbush Rezoning Proposal, Council hearing 7/27, 2009-06-18
Flatbush Rezoning Hearing at Borough Hall 5/7, 2009-05-05
Flatbush Rezoning Proposal CB14 Public Hearing April 2, 2009-03-16
DCP-CB14 briefing on Inclusionary Housing provisions, 2009-03-10
Flatbush Rezoning Proposal certified, enters public review process, 2009-03-02
Flatbush Rezoning Proposal scheduled for certification, 2009-02-28
New Flatbush Rezoning Proposal Gets It Right, 2008-10-07
Flatbush Rezoning Proposal will define the future of Victorian Flatbush, 2008-06-13
Flatbush Rezoning Proposal, 2008-05-23
Preserving Livable Streets: DCP's Yards Text Amendment, 2007-11-07
Victorian Flatbush at risk from inappropriate zoning, 2007-10-23
State of Flatbush/Midwood, 2007-10-05
Landscape and Politics in Brooklyn's City Council District 40, 2007-02-14
NASA Earth Observatory Maps NYC's Heat Island, Block by Block, 2006-08-01


City Council Adopts Flatbush Rezoning, Brooklyn Community Board 14, 2009-07-30
Flatbush Rezoning, Ditmas Park Blog, 2009-07-30

Important DCP Links

Flatbush Rezoning Proposal, City Planning

Residence District Zoning Explained
Table comparing R1 through R3 (PDF)
Table comparing R4 through R5 (PDF)
Inclusionary Housing Program, DCP
DCP Zoning Glossary
ULURP: Uniform Land Use Review Procedure

Other Links

South Midwood Residents Association
Brooklyn Community Board 14
Brooklyn Community District 14 Profile (PDF)


Wicked Plants with Amy Stewart at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A large group assembled for Amy Stewart's tour of Wicked Plants along the Annual Border of Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Lily Pool Terrace. Wicked Plants Tour at Brooklyn Botanic Garden Saturday afternoon, Blog Widow and I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for an afternoon of Wicked Plants: a tour led by Amy Stewart, a book signing, and a cake baked for the occasion. Amy Stewart, rigged with portable amplification Amy Stewart Sarracenia, Pitcher Plants Wicked Plants Tour at Brooklyn Botanic Garden Ricinus communis, Castor Bean plant Ricinus communis, Castor Bean plant Book purchase display Wicked Plants Book Signing

The Cake

A Wicked Cake enters the Lily Pool Terrace Cake Entrance "Everything is edible, except the boards," said one of the cake wranglers. Well, that and the stems of the flowers. The flowers were incredibly lifelike. Edible Tulip It's hard to justify eating artistry like this. But it was a hot and humid day, so what can you do?! Edible Hydrangea Amy regards a Tulip before taking a bite of it. Amy Stewart with edible Tulip Blog Widow peals a petal off a Tulip. It tasted vaguely like wax lips. Technically edible. Blog Widow eats a Tulip The base was seven layers of chocolate and vanilla cake with mocha cream. Delicious, and worth the wait. Seven Layer Cake

Glam Shots

Not everything we saw that day was wicked. Double-Flowering Lotus Double Lotus Dragonfly Pachydiplax longipennis, Blue Dasher (Male), Lily Pool Terrace, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, July 2009 Hens and Chicks Hens and Chicks Okay, wicked, but kinda cool, huh? Spiny Solanum


[bit.ly] [bk.ly]

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Wicked Plants, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Wicked Plants, Amy Stewart Pretty Poison: Plants to Die For, CBS News Sunday Morning, 2009-08-02