Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Archive: October 2010

The World’s Largest Pumpkin Becomes World’s Largest Jack-O-Lantern

Posted in Programs and Events on October 29 2010, by Plant Talk

Rustin Dwyer is Visual Media Production Specialist at The New York Botanical Garden.

Scott Cully has held the Guinness World Record for largest jack-o’-lantern multiple times. In fact, there have been ten record breaking pumpkins in the last 11 years. Eight of those record-breakers were turned into jack-o-lanters, five of which were carved by Scott! Not a bad career, huh?

His last record was set on Sunday, October 31, 2005 and here we are –exactly five-years later– where he will try to break his own record by carving the current World Record-holding pumpkin, a 1,810.5-pound behemoth grown by Chris Stevens of New Richmond, Wisconsin.

He won’t be alone, though — botanical artists Michael Anthony Natiello (the artist behind the 500 carved pumpkins currently decorating the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden) and Sara Mussen are on had this weekend to decorate the two other prize winning giant pumpkins on display next to the record holder. Here’s a short video with Scott talking about the process (hint, wine is involved).

Inside the Giant Pumpkin

Posted in Programs and Events on October 29 2010, by Plant Talk

Ann Rafalko is Director of Online Content.

Yep, that’s right ladies and gents. The giant pumpkins are so big, a man can fit inside. Matthew DeBacco from climbed inside Steve Connolly’s 1,674.5 pounder this morning to harvest some seeds. He reported that it was nice and warm, and that if it were on the Lower East Side it would rent for about $1,500 a month!.

Check it out!

Three, It’s a Magic Number

Posted in Programs and Events on October 28 2010, by Plant Talk

World's Heaviest PumpkinWhen life hands you three giant pumpkins, you might as well carve them into jack-o’lanterns! Really, really big jack-o’-lanterns.

This Friday and Saturday, World Record-holder Scott Cully (who will be carving the current World’s Heaviest Pumpkin) will be joined by Michael Anthony Natiello, the carver behind the 500 pumpkins decorating The New York Botanical Garden‘s Halloween Hoorah and creator of the Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor.  Michael will be carving the 1,725 pound runner-up pumpkin.

Natiello’s collaborator Sara Mussen will be on hand on Friday to carve the third pumpkin, a 1,674.5 pounder grown by Steve Connolly.

Plant Profile: The Extraordinary Common Milkweed

Posted in Science on October 28 2010, by Plant Talk

How Do Insects Feed on this Plant with Sticky White Latex?

Amy Berkov is an Honorary Research Associate with The New York Botanical Garden’s Institute of Systematic Botany; she studies interactions between wood-boring beetles and trees in the Brazil nut family. Photo of Amy Berkov by Chris Roddick.

When I was in graduate school I decided to turn my East Village community garden plot over to the insects. I was an NYBG/CUNY Ph.D. candidate hoping to study plant-animal interactions. By happy accident I ended up in an entomology course at the American Museum of Natural History. The revelation that plants produce a huge variety of chemicals capable of manipulating insect behavior captured my imagination, so I planted six native species: three milkweeds (Asclepias) and three goldenrods (Solidago) to attract specific beetles.

Fifteen years later, one goldenrod species is still hanging on, but common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is clearly the winner—and it’s now making furtive advances into neighboring plots (the original plant probably spread by underground rhizomes). My observations have convinced me that the common milkweed is anything but common!

Plants in the genus Asclepias are called milkweeds because of the sticky white latex that pours out of wounded tissues. Asclepias latex is rich in toxic cardiac glycosides, and the scientific genus name comes from Asklepios, the ancient Greek physician.

Some milkweed-feeders actually sequester the toxins to defend themselves from predators, but how do they avoid getting their mouthparts hopelessly gummed up? Some slice right through leaf midribs, which diverts the latex flow and enables the “trencher” to feed downstream of the cut. For a video clip of the best-known trencher, the monarch caterpillar, click here.

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A Few of Our Favorite Things

Posted in Shop/Book Reviews, Uncategorized on October 27 2010, by Plant Talk

Ann Rafalko is Director of Online Content.

It seems hard to believe, but the holidays really are just around the corner. We love the holidays here at The New York Botanical Garden. The holidays mean the return of one of New York City’s most cherished family traditions, The Holiday Train Show in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. It also means the arrival of beautiful new goodies at the Shop in the Garden, and on the Shop’s website. The selection of gifts in the Shop this holiday season is all about favorites, but they’re not just ours. We’re inviting some of the Garden’s most stylish, culinarily-minded, crafty, and green-thumbed friends to share a few of their favorite things with you!

So, take a spin around the Shop, whether in person while you’re visiting the giant pumpkins this weekend, or virtually. And if you happen to spot something that you’d like to call your favorite, you can use the “Tell A Friend” feature to give Santa a gentle hint.

So watch this space to see what some of your favorite bloggers will be giving as gifts this holiday season!

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite things.

Get a jump-start on your holiday shopping list with a few recommendations below.

The Inside Scoop: Giant Pumpkin Growers

Posted in Programs and Events on October 27 2010, by Plant Talk

Rustin Dwyer is Visual Media Production Specialist at The New York Botanical Garden.

Do you have giant pumpkin fever? Can you not wait to dig your trowel into the earth and take a stab at growing your own World Record-setter?

Us, too! So we went straight to the source and asked the growers of the three behemoths currently calling The New York Botanical Garden home for their best growing tips.

Here’s what they had to say:

Carving the Great Pumpkin

Posted in Programs and Events on October 26 2010, by Plant Talk

Ann Rafalko is Director of Online Content.

The world’s heaviest pumpkin is calling The New York Botanical Garden home for just a few more days. And while its entrance was grand, its exit will be spectacular!

Beginning Friday, October 29, world-renowned pumpkin carver, and current holder of the Guinness Book‘s World Record for largest jack-o’-lantern, Scott Cully will be at the Botanical Garden to carve the 1,810.5 lbs beauty. The carving, which will take approximately one hour per 100 lbs. will continue through Sunday, October 31 (also known to some as Halloween!).

What will the pumpkin end up looking like, and will Cully break his own World Record? Only time will tell. But we do love daydreaming here at the Garden. So to get your imagination going about what the great pumpkin might end up looking like, we thought we’d share a few pictures of Cully’s past creations.

Learn more about the giant pumpkins here, here, and here. And to plan your visit for this fascinating Garden experience, click here.

Origin of the Giant Pumpkin

Posted in Programs and Events, Science on October 26 2010, by Thomas Andres

Thomas C. Andres is an Honorary Research Associate at the Garden.
Grower Chris Stevens helps lower the 1,810.5 lbs pumpkin into place at The New York Botanical Garden.

I am especially excited that three record-breaking pumpkins are on display this month at The New York Botanical Garden. The heaviest one is not only the heaviest fruit ever grown, but also the heaviest fruit in the plant kingdom! The scientific name of the species, Cucurbita maxima, says it all. How did this all come about?

First, I should explain my relationship with these plants. I work here at the Botanical Garden with Michael Nee on the taxonomy of the genus Cucurbita. This group of a little over a dozen species includes the squashes, pumpkins, and certain kinds of gourds. They all originally grew wild in the tropical and subtropical Americas. Five of the species were domesticated and represent some of our oldest New World crop plants. This means that Italy not only didn’t have tomatoes before Columbus, but no zucchini!

Wild Cucurbita fruit are like a baseball in size, shape, and even almost in hardness. This is quite large for a wild fruit, although nothing to write to the Guinness Book of World Records about. So how could a fruit that is so hard and so big travel around enough to form new populations? Wild Curcurbita do often grow in flood plains, and float during floods, but they would then only float in one direction: downstream.

A tale of megafauna, Columbus, selective breeding, and the pursuit of the one ton pumpkin. More below.

Halloween Hoorah: For Kids of All Ages

Posted in Programs and Events on October 25 2010, by Plant Talk

Justin Wollenhaupt is a Marketing Associate.

Halloween Hoorah at The New York Botanical GardenAnyone who thinks Halloween HoorahThe New York Botanical Garden‘s annual celebration of all things Halloween and pumpkin–is just for kids clearly did not see the look on my fiancé’s face on a recent Saturday. Maybe it was the generous wine samples we had just enjoyed at the Edible Garden’s finale weekend, or maybe it had to do with the fact that she’s been bringing up having children more often, and more insistently.  Either way, her expression of delight as we walked through the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden was unreservedly enthusiastic, and, to a man who has been dealing with the daily headaches of having just moved into a fourth-floor walk-up, this change in mood was entirely welcome.

She had visited the Botanical Garden before, but never at Halloween Hoorah time, and we had a blast checking out the hundreds of carved and sculpted pumpkins lining the paths of the Children’s Garden. The artist who made them, Michael Anthony Natiello, must absolutely love his job. Either that, or he has nightmares of an endless conveyor belt of pumpkins.

Learn more about the Halloween Hoorah, the giant pumpkins, see a photo gallery, and a video after the jump.