Plant Talk

Inside The New York Botanical Garden

What’s Beautiful Now: Maples & More

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on November 14 2018, by Matt Newman

The Steinhardt Maple Collection is in prime form this week as fall’s peak of reds, oranges, and yellows winds down toward its wintry wardrobe. The many Japanese varieties in the collection stand on a hill near the Rose Garden, and their elegant leaves and winding branches can’t be missed. Catch the autumnal beauty in the Garden while you can!

Steinhardt Maple Collection

Steinhardt Maple Collection
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New Library Visitors Explore the Special Collections

Posted in Garden News on November 13 2018, by Plant Talk

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian and Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian for The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of Library book platesThis past spring, LuEsther T. Mertz Library staff invited several NYBG Adult Education classes to view treasures from our special collections. The classes were given tours of the Library and the Rare Book Room where they viewed special collection titles related to their class subjects.

The students from the class Orchid Next Door with Dr. Matthew Pace joined Library staff for a viewing of the First Annual Catalogue of North American herbaceous plants, orchids… (1882) by James Galen, The orchid hunters: a jungle adventure (ca. 1939) by Norman MacDonald, and many other exciting titles. The Hidden World of Lichens class with Dr. James Lendemer joined the Library staff in two sessions to view materials related to the chronological history of lichenology through various materials in the Library’s collection. Other sessions included a viewing of 17th- century bulb literature for students of Landscape Plants: Bulbs! with instructors Michael Hagen and  Marta McDowell; a review of 19th-century, hand-colored floral illustrations for the students of Designing with Tropical Flowers with Bridget Vizoso; and a peek at the Library’s mounted-insect collection for the students of Entomology with Tam Nguyen.

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The Victory Grove of Douglas Spruce

Posted in From the Library on November 12 2018, by Don Wheeler

Don Wheeler is the Collection Development Librarian of The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of the Douglas spruce memorial
The Douglas spruce memorial grove in 1924, Fordham hospital in the background. Photo courtesy of the Mertz Library.

There is always something to discover at the Garden, even for those of us privileged to work here every day. While looking for something else, an article in the 1919 volume of the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden caught my eye: “The planting of trees as war memorials.” In the January 1919 issue, Edward Adams, prominent banker, engineer, philanthropist, and member of the Board of The New York Botanical Garden, suggested the planting of Douglas Spruce trees as a living memorial to the men and women who had served in the recently ended First World War. He proposed that trees be planted on the grounds of The New York Botanical Garden with contributions of $10 per tree from citizens wishing to participate. (That $10 is equal to about $146 today when adjusted for inflation.)

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Conservation Starts in Our Gardens

Posted in Garden News on November 9 2018, by Plant Talk

Jessica Arcate Schuler is the Director of the Thain Family Forest at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of a garden

Many gardeners view their gardens as separate and isolated from the larger landscape. In reality, the larger landscape is a connected patchwork of ecosystems that support life. Having an invasive species in our garden does impact a local natural area, planting a diversity of plants including native species benefits wildlife, efficiently managing stormwater, fertilizer, plant health, compost and water use determine a garden’s resilience. On November 28, Cultivating a New Garden Ethic will showcase three distinguished speakers, Larry Weaner, Scott Freeman, and Jan Merryweather, to explore how gardening practices can create beauty and help heal the larger environment.

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Handmade Houseplants

Posted in From the Library on November 8 2018, by Esther Jackson

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.


Cover of Handmade HouseplantsHandmade Houseplants: Remarkably Realistic Plants You Can Make With Paper is a fun how-to book by Corrie Beth Hogg with photographs by Christine Han. Hogg, an artist, designer, crafter, and stylist, has created a handy resource for people who would like to make paper plants for their homes or special events. The book details tools and materials, skills and techniques, and includes templates as well as step-by-step instructions for how to make over 30 paper plant projects of varying difficulty. The majority of the projects focus on foliage, as making paper flowers brings another level in complexity and is not as beginner-friendly.

For the most part, the book is well-organized and clearly laid out, although botanical names are used inconsistently, or not at all. Readers who are interested in sourcing art supplies mentioned in Handmade Houseplants can visit the book’s website for additional content and recommended vendors.

Speaking of paper plants, Plant Talk readers who enjoyed the paper flowers during the Garden’s recent Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai‘i exhibition can appreciate the skill and talent needed to create truly beautiful and detailed paper plants; the paper flowers featured in that show were created by the Garden’s own Charles Zimmerman, whose artwork can be viewed here. Although Handmade Houseplants won’t teach readers how to make specimen-quality paper plants, it offers a first step into the world of plant paper-crafts and design.

Excursion to Barnard College and the Arthur Ross Greenhouse

Posted in Humanities Institute on November 6 2018, by Vanessa Sellers

Photo of visitors in the Arthur Ross Greenhouse
Participants gather for the Botanical Open House at Arthur Ross Greenhouse at Barnard College; Brian Boom of NYBG and Lena Struwe of Rutgers University flank the group, hosts Hilary Callahan and Nick Gershberg stand at center (photo by Carrie Glasser, Barnard College)

On September 20, 2018, The New York Botanical Garden’s Humanities Institute, NYBG Herbarium, and NYBG Conservation and Horticulture staff, students, and fellows visited Barnard College. They were invited for a special botanical Open House at the Arthur Ross Greenhouse in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of this remarkable facility. The Arthur Ross Greenhouse is a large, state-of-the-art structure balancing high above Broadway & 120th Street atop Milbank Hall that is open to the Barnard and Columbia communities and used by its faculty to teach students about plants and plant evolution.

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Saving the American Ash: Calling All Citizen Scientists

Posted in Garden News on November 6 2018, by Plant Talk

Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., is the Vice President for Conservation Strategy and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany, and Daniel Atha is the Director of Conservation Outreach at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of a volunteer measuring an American ashAshes comprise one of North America’s most widespread and ecologically important groups of trees. Yet since 2002 an invasive beetle, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), has killed tens of millions of Ash trees across the Midwest and this pest is moving rapidly eastward through New York and New England. Ash tree mortality is nearly 100 percent within several years of beetle infestation, and there are no viable biological or chemical control solutions at the landscape level.

Most conservation efforts on behalf of North American Ashes have focused on controlling the EAB. With generous support from The Manton Foundation, The New York Botanical Garden has taken a different approach, one focused on documenting and characterizing Ash species diversity, and searching for rare individual trees that might have resistance to the EAB. Such trees are termed “lingering” Ashes—trees that appear healthy in the midst of a stand of EAB infestation. The only way to preserve the role of Ash trees in their native habitats may be through breeding of lingering Ash or genetic manipulation of resistance traits.

As part of this project, NYBG established a citizen science project in the Catskills region, which is the most intensively EAB-impacted part of New York State, and indeed in all of the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Since spring 2018, the project has established the target of five study plots in Catskill forests having heavily devastated Ash populations, and from regional workshops has recruited a small team of citizen scientists. These dedicated volunteers are scanning the Catskills’ forests for elusive lingering Ash trees, which, if detected, NYBG will report immediately to the USDA Forest Service’s EAB-resistant Ash tree breeding program. But this large and important project needs MORE citizen scientists.

This article originally appeared as part of a series on responsible citizenry in the 2018–2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about our current efforts and activities that promote, engage, and support active and responsible citizenry on local, regional, and global levels.

City Nature Challenge and the New York City EcoFlora Project

Posted in Garden News on November 2 2018, by Plant Talk

By Esther Jackson, Public Services Librarian; Samantha D’Acunto, Reference Librarian; Daniel Atha, Director of Conservation Outreach; and Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., Vice President for Conservation Strategy and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany.


Photo of an EcoFlora participantThis past spring, LuEsther T. Mertz Library staff organized a workshop on how to use the popular website and app iNaturalist. The workshop was held in preparation for the 2018 City Nature Challenge, a global competition to see which city could record the most number of observations in four days, April 27–30. New Yorkers turned out in force, including NYBG staff, volunteers, Members, and the general public. Daniel Atha, Director of Conservation Outreach, facilitated the two-hour class, teaching attendees about different features of the app, including how to observe, suggest identifications for the observations of others, and search the iNaturalist database for information. (New York City came in seventh place overall for the City Nature Challenge.)

Because of the popularity of the first workshop, the Library offered a second iNaturalist workshop in August. The workshop focused on website and desktop navigation, facilitated again by Daniel Atha. Workshop attendees learned how to navigate the iNaturalist website, including the New York City EcoFlora project, and how to make new observations using their smartphones and tablets. Elementary, middle, and high school teachers were among the workshop’s attendees, which also included NYBG staff, volunteers, and Members. All participants were encouraged to partake in a short “virtual scavenger hunt” to help test out their newly acquired iNaturalist knowledge. Questions included how many plant observations have been made in Bronx County, how many total observations have been made in New York City, and the most-frequently observed animal and plant species in the Bronx. Those who completed the scavenger hunt first were gifted a small Library swag bag filled with iNaturalist and NYBG-related stickers, notebooks, and pens.

In addition to the New York City EcoFlora workshops, this summer the Library staff collaborated with Kristine Paulus and Becky Thorp of the Plant Records Office to offer a workshop on NYBG’s Garden Navigator. In October Library staff hosted a Women in Science Wikipedia edit-a-thon in collaboration with the Untold Stories project at the American Museum of Natural History.

This article originally appeared as part of a series on responsible citizenry in the 2018–2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about our current efforts and activities that promote, engage, and support active and responsible citizenry on local, regional, and global levels.

Training in the Brazilian Amazon

Posted in Garden News on November 2 2018, by Plant Talk

Stephan Chenault is The New York Botanical Garden’s Director of Science Development.


Photo of Doug Daly in the AmazonDouglas Daly, Ph.D., B. A. Krukoff Curator of Amazonian Botany and Director of the Institute of Systematic Botany at NYBG, has spent several years working in collaboration with the Brazilian Forest Service to conduct extensive training and certification programs in the Amazon for traditional forestry personnel, called mateiros, forest-born but town-educated. His efforts have promoted conservation of Amazonian rain forests by ensuring far more accurate representation of tree diversity in forest inventories, and by assisting timber operations certified for sustainability. More than 100 mateiros who work in national forest concessions, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and Brazilian government environmental agencies have been trained thus far.

Recently Dr. Daly was awarded a generous grant of $200,000 over two years from the Tinker Foundation for a new but related project, Equipping Community Participation in Management and Monitoring of Amazon Forests. This initiative will build on past capacity-building accomplishments of the NYBG project team, by taking a novel approach of training community members in tree identification, forest inventory, and monitoring in protected areas. The project is a collaboration of NYBG with the Chico Mendes Biodiversity Institute (ICMBio), the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, and the Forest Products Laboratory of the Brazilian Forest Service. These efforts aim to conserve Amazonian biodiversity and establish community members as stakeholders in protected forest areas by ensuring that local communities benefit from this initiative in terms of both livelihoods and the local economy.

This article originally appeared as part of a series on responsible citizenry in the 2018–2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about our current efforts and activities that promote, engage, and support active and responsible citizenry on local, regional, and global levels.