Plant Talk | Science Talk

Early Detection, Rapid Response: Applying the Resources of The New York Botanical Garden to an Emerging Invasive Species

Esther Jackson is Public Services Librarian in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden.


Corydalis incisa</em (Bobbi Angell, 2015)

Corydalis incisa

Visitors to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library have the chance to see an exhibition centered on an emerging invasive species, Corydalis incisa, or incised fumewort.

This display, on view in the Rare Book Room window, arose from a collaboration between the Mertz Library and the Science Department. In preparation for last month’s Invasive Species Summit, staff brainstormed ways to use the Library’s display space to offer a compelling supplement to the programming of the Summit itself. Rather than displaying items from the Library’s collection illustrating unrelated invasive species, a more powerful exhibition would offer the narrative of one invasive—Corydalis incisaCorydalis incisa is an emerging invasive that Garden staff have studied and monitored for several years.

Daniel Atha, NYBG Conservation Program Manager, first wrote about Corydalis incisa in 2014 here on Science Talk Blog: “A member of the fumitory family, Corydalis incisa … is native to China, Korea, and Japan. It was first discovered growing wild in North America during the 2005 Bronx Park BioBlitz, north of The New York Botanical Garden.”

Since its discovery in Bronx County in 2005, Corydalis incisa has been detected in several additional sites in the northeastern United States, including Westchester County. While it is unclear how and when the plant escaped cultivation, it is readily apparent that educating the public about this threat is one of the best ways to rapidly respond to this invasive. The Library was the perfect venue to do just that.

Wild Populations of Incised Fumewort in North America (Elizabeth Kiernan, 2015)

Wild Populations of Incised Fumewort in North America (Elizabeth Kiernan, 2015)

The Library and Science staffs decided that the most meaningful way to present this threat to the public would be to include information about the plant’s discovery, information about the detection of the species in Bronx and Westchester counties, a history of public outreach and resource management by NYBG and affiliate institutions, and information to assist the public in identifying the species.

The exhibition is enhanced with a specimen of Corydalis incisa from the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, a botanical illustration by artist Bobbi Angell that was commissioned for the summit, and numerous detailed photographs by Daniel Atha. The challenge, at the end of the day, was not how to fill the space but how to carefully curate the wealth of information on hand.

Incised fumewort on display in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

Incised fumewort on display in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

Staff from both the Library and Science department drafted the texts used in the display materials. Kelsey Miller of the Library’s Conservation Department took the lead on organizing the layout of the exhibition space, with others from the team adding feedback and making suggestions. Installation of the display was by the Library’s Conservation team, with the launch coinciding with the Invasive Species Summit. In addition, the Library staff created a LibGuide as an access-point for both display and informational purposes.

The exhibition Early Detection, Rapid Response: Applying the Resources of the New York Botanical Garden to an Emerging Invasive Species will remain on display in the Rare Book Room window of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library until the end of the year.

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