Plant Talk | Science Talk

Botanists Boosted: NYBG’s Successful Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

Posted in Nuggets from the Archives on August 12th, 2016 by Science Talk – Be the first to comment

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library, where she regularly assists researchers on projects ranging from the history of science to botany, art, and landscape history. Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at the Mertz Library, where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office.


LuEsther T. Mertz Library

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden welcomed Wikipedia editors from the New York City area recently for a five-hour session of research, writing, and editing dedicated to creating and enhancing articles about botanists who have made significant collections of plant specimens in New York State.

For several years, Mertz Library staff members have discussed the idea of creating Wikipedia pages for botanists as a way of making use of the rich information contained in one of the library’s unique special collections known as the Vertical File. Among other things, the Vertical File holds especially interesting biographical materials such as photographs, newspaper articles, magazine clippings, brochures, and other ephemera about botanists, horticulturists, and agriculturalists. Many of the individuals represented in the Vertical File were at one time affiliated with the Botanical Garden or were professionally active in the state of New York. Therefore, hosting an edit-a-thon focused on creating Wikipedia articles for botanists who have made significant collections in the state of New York seemed like a logical choice.
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A Surprising Find in Central Park

Posted in New Plant Discoveries on August 5th, 2016 by Daniel Atha – Be the first to comment

Daniel Atha is the Conservation Program Manager at The New York Botanical Garden. He leads the Botanical Garden’s collaboration with the Central Park Conservancy on the Central Park Flora project.


Pumpkin ash tree recently discovered in Central Park

Pumpkin ash tree recently discovered in Central Park (Photos: Ken Chaya)

In the middle of Central Park, in the heart of North America’s largest metropolis, one of the rarest trees in New York has begun to set fruit, making it possible to determine its true identity. Working with arborists from the Central Park Conservancy, botanists from The New York Botanical Garden recently confirmed the occurrence of two pumpkin ash trees (Fraxinus profunda), a species that is endangered in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and was only recently added to the New York flora.

As part of the Central Park Flora project—a three-year endeavor to document the wild flora of Central Park—the team has discovered white ash (Fraxinus americana), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), two varieties of green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica var. pennsylvanica and Fraxinus pennsylvanica var. subintegerrima) and now pumpkin ash growing wild in Central Park.
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The Science of Stink

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories on July 29th, 2016 by Stevenson Swanson – Be the first to comment

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.


Corpse FlowerAh, New York in the summer. So many fetid fragrances fill the air. The garbage on the sidewalk, the hot blast of exhaust from a passing bus, the dank odor of the subway—these and even less savory sources best left to the imagination all add their odors to the city’s atmosphere on a hot, humid day.

That makes it all the more remarkable that thousands of New Yorkers have flocked to The New York Botanical Garden to see the corpse flower that is now blooming in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Apart from its size and striking appearance, the plant is notable for its stench, often compared to the smell of rotting flesh, which is the clever ploy it has evolved to attract pollinators.

Perhaps the fact that the plant blooms so infrequently and unpredictably draws most people, but many seem fascinated by the phenomenon that something in nature would smell this bad on purpose.
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NYBG Offers Opportunities to Master’s Students

Posted in NYBG Grad Students on July 15th, 2016 by Lawrence Kelly – Be the first to comment

Lawrence M. Kelly, Ph.D., is Director of Graduate Studies at The New York Botanical Garden.


Lehman College Master’s degree graduate Dario Cavaliere studying anatomy of the sesame family in NYBG’s Plant Research Laboratory.

Lehman College Master’s degree graduate Dario Cavaliere studying anatomy of the sesame family in NYBG’s Plant Research Laboratory.

Like other scientific research and educational institutions across the country, The New York Botanical Garden has seen increased enrollment in its Master’s programs in recent years as more graduate students pursue non-Ph.D. advanced degrees in the sciences. While many Ph.D. students seek careers in research and academia, Master’s students are more often looking for training opportunities to prepare them for careers in business, industry, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

To ensure that we continue to offer a broad range of opportunities to graduate students in the plant sciences, we have responded to this demand by providing Master’s thesis opportunities to students through our affiliated universities. Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies offers four Master’s degrees, as does New York University, including one focused on bioinformatics and systems biology, which is very relevant for students who want to gain expertise in biodiversity-related data management. Lehman College and City College of New York—both part of the City University of New York system—offer Master’s programs in biology. Columbia University confers a Master’s in conservation biology, while Fordham University has a Master’s in ecology.
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In Search of Fumewort at Garth Woods, We Found Something Better

Posted in From the Field on July 7th, 2016 by Science Talk – Be the first to comment

Laura Booth and Zihao Wang are Forest Interns at The New York Botanical Garden.


Abundant and diverse herbaceous layer in Garth Woods

Abundant and diverse herbaceous layer in Garth Woods

On a steamy day in late May, a crew of invasive species scouts assembled in the parking lot of the Garth Woods Apartments in Scarsdale, Westchester County. Our mission? To survey Garth Woods, a sliver of intact riparian forest, for Corydalis incisa, also called incised fumewort or purple keman. Much to our excitement, this case of sleuthing had a happy ending: for now, Garth Woods shows no sign of C. incisa, and full to the brim with uncommon native herbs that were a joy to see.

C. incisa, which is native to Asia, is an emerging invasive along the Bronx River; it was first recorded in the New York metropolitan region during the Bronx Park BioBlitz in 2005, and has subsequently been observed along the riverbanks of the Bronx River in The New York Botanical Garden and in several sites in Westchester County.
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Collected on the Fourth of July

Posted in Past and Present on July 1st, 2016 by Stevenson Swanson – Be the first to comment

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.


Dichanthelium latifolium

Dichanthelium latifolium

Watching some fireworks, going to the local parade, grilling burgers and hot dogs, maybe even finding time for a nap. Sounds like a classic Fourth of July. Collecting plant specimens is notably missing from this list. And yet, for botanists, our nation’s birthday is not necessarily a day off.

A search of the C. V. Starr Virtual Herbarium, where The New York Botanical Garden’s digitized herbarium specimens are made available online to researchers and the public, reveals that it includes no fewer than 6,808 specimens that were collected on a Fourth of July. They come from around the world, but more than 1,000 were snipped or dug up in the United States on Independence Day. They eventually found their way to the Botanical Garden’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, where they are now part of the 7.8 million specimens that are preserved there and are now being digitized for the Starr Virtual Herbarium.
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The Palms of Vietnam: A Doubling of Numbers

Posted in From the Field on June 20th, 2016 by Stevenson Swanson – Be the first to comment

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.


Vietnam’s mountainous Ha Giang province, near China

Vietnam’s mountainous Ha Giang province, near China

The last scientific survey of the plants of Vietnam—written by two French botanists in 1937, when it was a French colony—led a team of researchers to expect that they would find about 60 species of palms when they began a research project in that Southeast Asian country in 2007.

To date, they have discovered 113 species, including 41 that are new to science, and an entirely new genus (a group of closely related species).

“Sometimes we can drive up a road and look out the window and see new species,” Andrew Henderson, Ph.D., Abess Curator of Palms at The New York Botanical Garden, told a group of Garden Members during a recent Britton Gallery Talk. “Vietnam was overlooked by biologists for a long time because of war.”
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The New Wild

Posted in Books: Past and Present on June 13th, 2016 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.


The New WildThe New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation is the latest book from environmental journalist Fred Pearce.

In recent years, invasive species have been on the minds of many people and have been the focus of a variety of organizations working in ecology and biology, including The New York Botanical Garden. As Science Talk readers may know, the Botanical Garden hosted an invasive species summit in November 2015 to address the threat that invasive species represent to biodiversity worldwide. The summit featured discussion about conservation, including ecosystem management, and involved prominent speakers in the fields of invasion biology, restoration ecology, and not-for-profit land management. The New Wild is quite a topical book.
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The Rock Gnome

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories on May 27th, 2016 by Jessica Allen – Be the first to comment

Jessica L. Allen is studying for a Ph.D. as a student in the Commodore Matthew Perry Graduate Studies Program at The New York Botanical Garden. Lichens are her primary research interest.


ForestGnomes exist. They’re quite short and green with black caps. The only place to find them is on rocks in the southern Appalachians, and the best place to find them is in western North Carolina.

The gnome I’m describing is actually a lichen (which are combinations of fungi and algae) known as the rock gnome lichen (Cetradonia linearis). It’s one of two fungal species protected by the Endangered Species Act and a member of one of the largest families of lichens, Cladoniaceae.

The rock gnome was one of four fungal species recently added to the Red List, a list of endangered species all over the world that is maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Before these four species were added, only two fungal species were recognized on the Red List. The rock gnome lichen was added to the Red List after a successful meeting at The New York Botanical Garden last summer, during which a group of lichenologists came together to prepare detailed assessments of North American lichens.
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Help Us Boost Botanists on Wikipedia!

Posted in Events on May 16th, 2016 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.


The_LuEsther_T._Mertz_Library

On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., the LuEsther T. Mertz Library will be hosting a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon focused on creating and sprucing up pages for botanists who have made significant collections in New York State.

Editors are welcome to use the vast historic collections of the Mertz Library to create and edit pages. For those who aren’t familiar with Wikipedia’s editing process, we’ll be offering training to help you get started, and editors of all skill levels are welcome to join in.*

Index Herbariorum and KE EMu, the herbarium collections database at NYBG, were used as starting points to build a list of New York State’s most notable plant collectors. This field has been male-dominated, historically, so we’re making every effort to promote better representation of female botanists. Help us share their contributions with the world!

All you need to do to attend is R.S.V.P. here.

You can view this event on Wikipedia and add yourself to the event page here.

*Attendees must bring a laptop to this event. Please note that training for new editors will be offered during the first hour of this event. New editors should plan on attending this training. Experienced editors are welcome to arrive at any point during this event’s duration.