The soft face of the camellia flower springs up so often on Plant Talk that I’m absolutely flabbergasted we haven’t taken a closer look at the genus before. In the fall, a few cultivars soldiered on past fluke blizzards and nippy temperatures to keep their flowers until November. And true to that form, the winter camellias have proven some of the earliest bloomers along the Ladies’ Border. I’d personally put them on the All-Star team of botanical beauties if we were ever so ridiculous as to create such a thing.
The colors and outline of this evergreen’s flowers play on the same aesthetic fascination that many find in cherry blossoms, or the Chinese plum–the camellia is a staple of Asian artwork. And rightfully so. The range of the genus extends from the Himalayas east through Japan, and south to Indonesia. From these regions it has inevitably spread, earning fame and adoration among horticulturists, with as many as 200 species establishing themselves for their ornamental value from one side of the world to the other. But as pageant-winners go, the camellia is especially talented.
Working alongside some of the world’s most talented and knowledgeable botanists tends to relate directly to the number of office plants that find homes on desks and window sills. Window Garden Wednesday exists to acquaint our readers with some of the folks who are often too busy in the field, lab, or conference room to spend time lurking on social media sites. (That’s our job.)
We continue the revival of Window Garden Wednesdays with a collection close to my desk. Not that I’m allowed to touch it. You see, this is the window garden of one Ann Rafalko, imperious (I jest) Director of Online Content for The New York Botanical Garden. She also happens to be my boss (or foreman, or warden–it’s really a matter of imagination paired with the general mood of the room on any given weekday).
Our humble copse of potted things here in Creative Services may not be particularly exotic or flamboyant, but it suits us just fine. So I’ll turn it over to Ann to explain just what it is we have lurking on the sill, how it got there, and perhaps the handful of miracles that must have fallen on our grim corner of the Library Building to keep these zombies of vegetation hovering in the realm of healthy.
Welcome, wild harbinger of spring! To this small nook of earth; Feeling and fancy fondly cling Round thoughts which owe their birth To thee, and to the humble spot Where chance has fixed thy lowly lot.
– Bernard Barton, “To a Crocus” (1827)
Forgive me for crooning verse so early in the year, but it seems spring has no qualms with breaking schedule. These little guys have popped up near Wamsler Rock.
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ — Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen
It turns out that the French botanist and designer, Patrick Blanc, is in fact very green. If you are unaware of his reputation as “The Green Man,” the eccentric eco-artist and designer sports bright green hair, and electric green nail polish painted on a long, curvy thumb nail.
With a strong background in botany under his belt, Blanc has explored the natural world while traveling extensively throughout the tropics. Through his travels he has paid particular attention to how plants situate themselves in their native environments–tangling and twisting amongst other species, climbing over each other, and colonizing small territories in diverse communities.
Blanc has paired his fascination with plants and their natural communities with new technologies, and is now one of the leaders in the field of vertical gardening, or “living walls.” In this day and age when space is at a premium–particularly in urban environments–vertical gardening is quite literally a breath of fresh air.
I told myself last night, shortly after I went to my bunk, that I would have a better attitude today.
The ship moved in the early morning to our field site for the day, Seno Ventisquero in Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. I was summoned to the bridge from my bunk, so I quickly dressed and went upstairs. The seas were very rough and the captain wanted to explain that rather than heading for our tentatively agreed upon site, we would instead be tying-up in a calm harbor at approximately 54º45’S, 70º19’W. I always leave these decisions to him anyway so it was just a formality.
The day didn’t look like it was going to be a good one; the clouds were so low that they seemed to be barely hovering above the waves, and sleet pelted the ship’s deck. As a consequence, most of us were a little slow in getting ready to head into the field. Lily and I boarded a Zodiac and were taken to what appeared to be a coastal southern beech forest with a small river running through it. Throughout the entire ride we suffered through continual sleet, but, the moment we stepped ashore it stopped! Surely a good sign!
February 3, 2012; Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, Fiordo Garibaldi, approximately 54º58’S, 69º49’W
This morning we collected in Brazo Inutil (approximately 54º58’S, 69º49’W). The day began with patches of blue sky and the promise of a nice day, but it was colder than it had been recently, which I should have known signaled a change in the weather. The collecting wasn’t great, but I know at this stage that I have seen and personally collected much of the flora, and so have to fight surrendering to boredom. Most of my time has been spent looking for mosses and I have not really paid great attention to lichens. NYBG now has three lichenologists, as well as a new lichen graduate student joining us soon. My colleagues at the Garden, as well as various researchers outside of my home institution, have asked me to be on the lookout for certain groups of lichens, and I have decided that now is the time for me to do so! Once I have found what mosses I can at any site, I then devote some time to looking for lichens.