Plant Talk | Science Talk

What’s in a Plant Name: Liriodendron tulipifera L.

Posted in Horticulture on June 21st, 2017 by Katherine Wagner-Reiss – Be the first to comment

Katherine Wagner-Reiss has her certificate in botany from NYBG and has been a tour guide here for two years.


Photo of a tulip tree flower

Liriodendron tulipifera L. flower

The NYBG Tulip Tree Allée is a NYC Landmark. Twenty-six Liriodendron tulipifera L. were planted in 1903. While it is unusual for a Landmark to be composed of living things, people should be able to enjoy this Landmark for hundreds of years to come, since the trees were 10 years old at planting and individual tulip trees have been known to live for 500 years. These majestic trees are in the magnolia family.

As you face the Library Building, notice one tulip tree with a larger girth in the uppermost left-hand corner; as the Library was being built, this original tree was preserved and it may well have been the inspiration for planting the other 26.

Now, to dissect the Latinized name: Lirio derives from the Greek word for lily, dendron from the Greek word for tree, and tulipifera means “tulip-bearing.” Curious that both the leaves and the flowers have a tulip shape! Whenever I see the L. after the species name, I feel a close tie with history, since that signifies that Carl Linnaeus, the father of botany, officially gave that Latinized name to the plant.
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Cutting Back in Kyoto

Posted in From the Library on June 20th, 2017 by Esther Jackson – Be the first to comment

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Photo of Cutting BackCutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto by Leslie Buck is part memoir, part travelogue, and part garden design narrative. In 1999, Buck, then the owner of a pruning business in California, traveled to Japan in pursuit of an internship. Having worked with Japanese and Japanese-taught mentors previously, Buck was determined to gain additional training from Japanese craftspeople working in Japan’s famed gardens. Through the help of contacts in Kyoto, Buck obtained an internship at Uetoh Zoen, one of the oldest and most respected landscape companies in Kyoto.

For the most part, it was interesting to read about Buck’s experience working on a pruning-only garden crew, as well as to learn about her attempts to understand and navigate Japanese culture as an American woman. Buck wrote that her “Bossman” was constantly challenging her with progressively more difficult tasks, and for that reason she never fully settled in to her internship or hit her stride. By the end of the book, Buck seemed to have learned about Japanese work ethic, culture, and gardening practices in spite of forgetting all the Japanese language she had learned (as she claimed).
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What Have Plants Ever Done for Us?

Posted in From the Library on June 20th, 2017 by Esther Jackson – Be the first to comment

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Photo of a book coverWhat Have Plants Ever Done for Us? is a wonderful book about botany, history, and human society. Authored by Stephen Harris, Curator of the Oxford University Herbaria and a University Research Lecturer, Plants was published in 2015. Those who read a lot of popular science books about botany will be aware that there are quite a few books published in the vein of Plants, sort of “natural history prose” about how certain plant species or plant groups have been used by humans throughout the ages.

Poorly-researched books are a dime a dozen, which makes Plants all the more wonderful. Harris is a detail-oriented researcher who writes well, both clearly and with a very dry (sometimes hard to catch) sense of humor. Not only does Harris review and condense several more recent “a history of” publications about different plants (for example, The Pineapple: The King of Fruits or Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization), he incorporates recent scholarly scientific research articles as well as notable historic works written between the 15th and 20th centuries. Harris deftly weaves his narrative with elements of history, botanical nomenclature, taxonomy, plant morphology, genetic research, and economics. In addition to very good scientific writing, there is a great deal here about the trade and colonization practices of European powers in particular, as well as elements of conservation theory.

Any lover of plants will enjoy What Have Plants Ever Done for Us?. Readers can sample a chapter or two at a time, or read the text from cover to cover. Teachers in many different disciplines—humanities and sciences both—might also find Plants to be very valuable as a teaching aid, either by assigning chapters to students as readings or using chapter topics to structure lesson plans.  Having finished Plants, I am now eager to read more by Harris! In particular, Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum: A Brief History, Harris’s new book from University of Chicago Press.

What’s Beautiful Now: Shapes of the Solstice

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on June 19th, 2017 by Matt Newman – Be the first to comment

Hydrangea quercifoliaWeek of June 19, 2017

While the roses have hit their spring peak, you’ll still find color in the collection throughout summer as we move on toward its September redux. Meanwhile, the lush greenery of summer is the pride of the Garden right now, with late spring flowers in all shapes and sizes making a showing throughout.

There’s no better place to catch it than in the Native Plant Garden, where speckled sunlight filters down through the tree canopy to light ferns and grasses in abundance. The Rock Garden continues its quiet, colorful reign as we move into summer, and the Perennial Garden is a manicured balance of flowers and foliage right now. See what’s beautiful at NYBG this week, just ahead of the summer solstice!

Perennial of the Week: Astilbe × arendsii 'Amethyst'

Perennial of the Week: <em>Astilbe </em>×<em> arendsii</em> 'Amethyst'
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Reaching heights of 30”–36”, Astilbe × arendsii 'Amethyst' is known for its tall and fluffy plumes of lavender-pink flowers. This perennial is clump-forming, yet graceful with its flowers emerging erect on a tall and slender stem above the mounds of fern-like leaves (about 12”–24” tall). You can find sweeps of this beauty in the Azalea Garden.

Anna Botsford Comstock: Trailblazer in Nature Education

Posted in From the Library on June 16th, 2017 by Samantha D’Acunto – Be the first to comment

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.


Anna ComstockOn September 1, 1854 in Cattaraugua County, New York, a girl by the name of Anna Botsford was born. It wouldn’t be until many years later that her name would be recognized and respected. Anna was fascinated with nature ever since she was a child, and her interest in the subject followed her as she entered the newly established Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

As she studied and attended lectures, Anna found herself particularly enthralled with a young entomology professor named John Henry Comstock. Encouraging Anna to cultivate her already strong understanding and interest in nature, John recruited her to assist him with his research. Anna was a skilled illustrator. Her ink and pen illustrations of insects were detailed and accurate, making them some of the most authoritative images for insect identification at the time. As the two worked closely and intimately on various projects, a spark of romance developed; by 1878 the two were married. Anna continued her studies at Cornell University and by 1885 she graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree.
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Wildlife at the Garden: Sunning

Posted in Wildlife on June 14th, 2017 by Patricia Gonzalez – Be the first to comment

Patricia Gonzalez is an NYBG Visitor Services Attendant and avid wildlife photographer.


Photo of a mourning dove

A mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) at the Reflecting Pool – Photo by Patricia Gonzalez

What’s Beautiful Now: Summer Heat

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on June 12th, 2017 by Matt Newman – Be the first to comment

While the herbaceous peonies that held the spotlight until now have bid us adieu for another spring, the Rockefeller Rose Garden quickly stepped in to take the stage, boasting thousands of beautiful flowers as the heat picks up at the Garden. Summer’s approach means a lush and sunny 250 acres to explore at NYBG, so grab your sunglasses and head outside!

Rose Garden

Rose Garden
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The Rose Garden is enjoying its first flush of color for the season! Make sure you don’t miss this garden at its peak.

 

Spotlights from the Shelf: Veggie Appreciation

Posted in From the Library on June 12th, 2017 by Samantha D’Acunto – Be the first to comment

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.


Photo of Pattan's PumpkinVegetables are at the center of the longest battle ever fought between parent and child. Fighting the good fight for the veggie kingdom, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library aims to equip parents everywhere with titles that highlight veggie appreciation. The titles featured below are new to our children’s circulating collection and offer positive tales of why eating your veggies is important. So next time you say “Eat your vegetables!” it might just work!

Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India by Chitra Soundar / Illustrated by Frane Lessac (2016)

Pattan and his wife Kanni live near the river caring for their garden and their animals. The goats, bulls, and elephants help Pattan tend to his chores, and in return, he shares his harvest. After his walk through the land, Pattan finds a plant that is need of help, so he replants it in his garden to care for it. Not too long after being replanted, the plant grows into a pumpkin. The pumpkin quickly grows larger than the goat, then larger than the bull, then larger than the elephant, and soon enough it’s bigger than a mountain! When a rainstorm causes terrible flooding, Pattan must quickly devise a plan that will carry his family, animals, and grain to safety. Based on a traditional South Indian tale, Pattan’s Pumpkin is exciting and rewarding to read! Its vibrantly colored illustrations and friendly narrative transport the reader into the story.
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Collaborative Campaign brings together Researchers from Columbia University and the Humanities Institute

Posted in From the Library on June 7th, 2017 by Vanessa Sellers – Be the first to comment
Photo of symposium participants

Participants of the workshop “Biodiversity and its Histories” gather in the Humanities Institute, Mertz Library, NYBG.

Over the course of the last three months, The New York Botanical Garden’s Humanities Institute and the Center for Science & Society at Columbia University have opened the front in a collaborative campaign for renewed dialogue about conservation, climate change, and the numerous other challenges that face the protection of biodiversity and the environment in the 21st Century.
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Sowing Beauty in the Meadow

Posted in From the Library on June 5th, 2017 by Esther Jackson – Be the first to comment

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Photo of Sowing BeautySowing Beauty: Designing Flowering Meadows from Seed is a new book from James Hitchmough and Timber Press. Hitchmough is an established author of popular garden writing as well as a respected academic. Sowing Beauty offers readers a hybrid of academic and popular writing related to meadow garden creation featuring plants from around the world.

In addition to an introduction and appendices, the book itself is separated into sections titled “Looking to nature for inspiration and design wisdom,” “Designing naturalistic herbaceous plant communities,” “Seed mix design, implementation, and initial establishment,” “Establishment and management,” and “Case studies of sown prairies, meadows, and steppe.”

Sowing Beauty is an attractive and interesting book, but a hard one to classify. The book centers around Hitchmough’s unique style and somewhat radical practice of sowing meadows from seed. Sowing Beauty is home gardener-friendly in terms of content, detailing the process of meadow-sowing from start to finish. Readers learn to create seed mixes, sow their seeds, and maintain their meadows over time.
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