Scott A. Mori has been studying New World rain forests for The New York Botanical Garden for over 35 years. He has witnessed an unrelenting reduction in the extent of the tropical forests he studies and as a result is dedicated to teaching others about this species rich ecosystem.
A tangle of flowers arising from the trunk of a cannon ball tree in Grenada. (Photo by Scott A. Mori)
I still stand in awe each time I see the cannon ball tree (Couroupita guianensis), a member of the Brazil nut family. In fact, it is such an astonishing plant that I am nominating it as the most interesting tree on Earth (disclaimer: I am a specialist in the Brazil nut family and my nomination may be biased). After you read this essay, I would like to know if you agree with me—if not, I challenge you to nominate a tree, tropical or temperate and from any part of the world, that you feel is more interesting than this marvel of nature.
Sorbet purples flush the vandas, cymbidiums pop with lime-green bursts; nearby, a moth orchid flaunts its wedding whites. On the whole, orchids are a lot like Carnaval, vibrant and loud and rambunctiously elegant. But as one of the largest flowering plant families on Earth, how do you go about honoring the essence of that variety? It’s simple, really: just look to nature!
Now in its second decade, the NYBG has captured New York City’s imagination with its annual Orchid Show, celebrating what can arguably be called the world’s most beloved flower. This year, we keep the tradition steaming ahead with a new exhibition highlighting the sheer spectrum of orchids found the world over, diving–genus by genus–into every color of this iconic beauty.
In the hands of our Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions, Francisca Coelho, the heights of the Orchidaceae family inspire the city’s most magnificent collection of blossoms under one glass roof, each display an homage to nature’s wild palette.
An ex-girlfriend once observed in my presence: “Chocolate and men… some things are just better rich.” Understandably, she didn’t last long. Between the basic cable package and my favorite old jeans with the hole in the knee, I figure our relationship was more than her soul could endure. But let’s be honest–you don’t have to be a millionaire to make your significant other truly happy this Valentine’s Day. Money may not buy love, but–and it pains me to say it–she was right about one thing: the chocolate. Go ahead and upgrade the cable package, because you’ll be spending plenty of time on the living room couch if you forget to pick up the good stuff.
Once you’ve secured a delicious prize for your sweetheart, what better way to accumulate a few extra points than regaling them with the epic story of chocolate; its fantastic history and that mysterious process by which cacao makes its way from the deepest rain forests to that cellophane-wrapped, heart-shaped box gathering dust on the shelf of your local drug store? The object of your desire will undoubtedly wonder at your knowledge of obscure things and immediately find you more intriguing. You’re welcome in advance, friends.
Temperature drops make for phenomena even we can’t predict, and this is certainly proof of that. Matthew Cook, Assistant Manager of Arboretum and Grounds here at the NYBG, recently hit the trails to see what he could of the snowfalls and freezing temperatures along the Bronx River–only to find…. well, this baffling design. After asking the Bronx River Alliance if they could hazard a guess at what created these absurd tracks (they couldn’t), this stumped blog staff is now putting the question to its readers.
It definitely looks like one our scientists was doing the worm across the ice, but that’s as much a shot in the dark on my part as “beaver tracks,” “wayward recumbent bicycle,” and “forest hydra.” Maybe there’s a zoologist or accomplished tracker out there who can do us one better. If so, plug in your suggestions in the comments below!
Orchids are typically classified as cool, intermediate, or warm growers; the designation matches the temperatures that they are accustomed to in their native habitat. Cattleyas, for their part, are intermediate to warm growers. The warm growers tend to be species that grow at low altitudes, while intermediate growers are found growing in higher altitudes. For example, the Cattleya labiata that we were discussing a few weeks ago is native to the mountain ranges in the northeastern provinces of Brazil, and is found growing at elevations above 1600 feet (500 meters).
Often homeowners will look at these exotics blooms and think that they need to be pampered and require intense tropical heat. The reality is that cattleyas will do well growing in daytime temperatures ranging from 65-80° F, preferring temperatures on the cooler side of this spectrum (low 70s). Cattleyas should experience a temperature drop of 10 to 15 degrees overnight, placing nighttime temperatures in the mid to low sixties. I wouldn’t worry too much about being exact, however; modern hybrids have so many parental lineages that they generally land somewhere in the normal household temperature range. Just remember that this tropical beauty is environmentally friendly and will appreciate a home on the cooler side.
The first week’s worth of winners of the Tropical Paradise Photography Contest have been entered into the books, and it looks like the 2013 competition is going to be fierce! Do you think you have what it takes to win a gift certificate good for one of the Garden’s photography classes? Then let’s see your work!
Other than a few valiant (or confused) snowdrops peeking up from under the soil, the bulk of the NYBG‘s outdoor flowers continue to sleep it off until the early days of spring. That makes the Garden’s beauty less reliant on the landmarks of a map, and moreso on the simple love of exploration! The Forest, home to such a thick canopy in summer, now shows off the linework of its illustrated branches. The warm gradient of the grasses and reeds stands in for bobbing flower heads. And in months like January, the landscape takes on iced-over contrasts with a dab of the noir aesthetic.
2012’s winter offering proved closer to an endless fall than anything climatologists would have preferred, creating some interesting consequences in plant behavior. But this year, climate change aside, winter is making at least the tiniest effort to act the part! For one, buying these boots was hands-down my best decision of 2013–I’ve already saved myself a few embarrassing falls in the snowdrifts we get every few days. Even the fast-flowing Bronx River is still sloughing off the ice that crept in over the course of last week’s dipping thermometer.