Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Kristine Paulus

The Life of a Labeler

Posted in Horticulture on September 13 2017, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager and Becky Thorp is the Senior Plant Recorder. They are responsible for maintaining the records of the Garden’s living collections.


Lush green lawns, majestic trees, and artfully designed flower gardens may be the first thing visitors notice when they arrive at NYBG, but as a botanical garden, our mission goes well beyond the creation of a beatiful landscape. For 125 years, NYBG has served as a cultural and educational institution where anyone can learn about horticulture and botany. One of the simplest and most effective ways we carry out this part of our mission is through the documentation, tracking, and labeling of plants. Just as visitors to an art museum learn to tell a Titian from a Twombly by reading display labels next to each work, botanical garden-goers learn to differentiate a tulip from a trillium by looking at plant labels.

Various plant labels from NYBG's history.

Every aspect of labeling the garden’s tens of thousands of plants, including research, database work, production, and placement of labels in the landscape, is managed by the Plant Records Department.

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Saving Our Swamplands

Posted in Horticulture on February 15 2017, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students, and the public on all garden-related plant information.


Frog in Mitsubishi Wetlands
Frog in Mitsubishi Wetlands

Swamps have an undeserved negative reputation, and it’s no help when the word is used as a derogatory metaphor. A swamp is a type of wetland, one of our most important ecosystems. Wetlands control flooding, filter pollutants, slow erosion, improve water quality, store carbon, and provide necessary habitat for a wide range of plants and wildlife.

The Mitsubishi Wild Wetland Trail, a diverse landscape at NYBG, contains three kinds of wetlands: freshwater marsh, pond, and swamp.

Found on all continents except Antarctica, swamps are a type of wetland which is dominated by trees and shrubs. Trees that grow here have adapted to growing in very wet soil. Woody vegetation growing in the swamp area of the Wetland Trail includes willow, maple, buttonbush, dawn-redwood, bald-cypress, alder, oak, dogwood, and more.

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A New Class of Grass

Posted in Horticulture, Kiku on October 21 2016, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students, and the public on all garden-related plant information.


Kiku The Art of the Japanese GardenIf the idea of grass makes you think of dreaded after school yard chores or monotonous sports fields, consider a visit to Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden to amend this assessment.  Attempting to steal the spotlight from the chrysanthemums are several decorative members of the Poaceae family, better known to most of us as grasses.

Several plantings of Muhlenbergia capillaris, a highly ornamental native grass commonly called hairawn muhly, create a spectacular floral display for fall throughout the exhibition. Clouds of airy, purple-pink cotton candy-like flowers float above long slender foliage. These hazy panicles glow in the sunlight, converting garden beds into dreamscapes. Hardy and heat- and drought-tolerant, hairawn muhly is as low maintenance as it is attractive.  This colorful plant is also a highlight in the Home Gardening Center’s newly redesigned Grass and Bamboo Garden.

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A Weed by Any Other Name

Posted in Horticulture on August 16 2016, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students, and the public on all garden-related plant information.


Pontederia cordataThere are some words that gardeners would rather eradicate from their lexicon. “Weed” is one of them, whether a noun or a verb. Although the definition of weed is subject to debate (some define it as any plant growing where it’s not wanted, therefore a rose growing in a cabbage patch might be considered a weed), and can have multiple meanings (such as a widow’s mourning garments, but that’s a discussion for another time), most people think of a weed as a plant with little value.

So when is a weed not a weed? Many common names for plants include the word “weed” and are often associated with plants that we consider nuisances like bindweed or knotweed. However, quite a few likeable plants, such as native plants and those that are beneficial to pollinators, also contain the word “weed” in their name. Botanists and horticulturists tend to avoid the use of common names because they cause confusion. These vernacular terms vary by region and culture but also the same word can be used for multiple species. Since plants have only one botanical name accepted around the world, it’s a much more accurate term.

So which “weeds” are keepers?

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Spring Training

Posted in Horticulture on April 19 2016, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students, and the public on all garden-related plant information.


Pinus rigida, pitch pine
Pinus rigida

I don’t like baseball. I feel about the sport the way the protagonist of a certain Boomtown Rats song feels about Mondays. My dad, on the other hand, is the world’s biggest baseball fanatic (you might say phanatic if you knew which his favorite team is). While I will never share my dad’s passion for this popular bat-and-ball game, I try to be a good daughter and humor him in conversations as I try to find something (anything!) interesting about it. One way to amuse myself during a baseball game is to botanize it. It turns out that there are plants in baseball! That sticky goo that batters use to improve their grip? It’s pine tar from Pinus rigida, or pitch pine, a tough native tree that grows where few other can, in poor conditions, dry windswept slopes and shallow, rocky soil. The pine which gives the Pine Barrens of Long Island, New Jersey, and Cape Cod their name can be seen in the Ross Conifer Arboretum Its common name alludes to the high resin content that makes the production of pine tar possible. Its is so important in baseball that historians recall the infamous Pine Tar Game.

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It’s Not Easy Being Blue

Posted in Horticulture on September 9 2015, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students, and the public on all garden-related plant information.


Amsonia 'Blue Ice'
Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

Just about every color in the spectrum is represented somewhere in The New York Botanical Garden, but this summer blue is particularly significant. According to scientific studies, the hue is the most universally liked by humanity and so visitors to the Garden will certainly be pleased at the sight of the evocation of Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory The celebrated Mexican painter’s famous blue house was closely studied, enabling exhibitions staff to precisely match a backdrop of cobalt-blue walls for FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life.

It’s not surprising that Frida chose this shade for her abode. Blue has more symbolic meanings than any other color. As the tint of life-giving water and of the sky, home to numerous deities of many cultures, blue has been held in high regard throughout time. In art and in life it has been reserved for the most important people and things, including Pharaohs, Renaissance Madonnas, and Elvis’ shoes. The first synthetic pigment ever created, invented by the Ancient Egyptians, was, of course, blue! The pursuit of the perfect blue has molded entire civilizations. [1]

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In the Alive of Winter

Posted in Horticulture on February 23 2015, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students and the public on all garden-related plant information.


Ladies Border
A non-horticulturist friend recently asked me “So, what do you do in winter? The Garden must closed because everything is dead, right?”

Wrong! I assured this silly weather wimp that we do not overwinter in any hibernacula and there is actually a lot to see during wintertide, which just happens to be my favorite time of year. For those with a serious aversion to the fourth season, or perhaps suffering from chionophobia, they can always take shelter in the gorgeous glasshouse that is the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. There, they will see the remarkable pageant of tropical gems that will alleviate their shivers, from our most recent exhibition, Wild Medicine in the Tropics, to The Orchid Show: Chandeliers, opening soon, as well as the permanent collection of plants.

However, as someone who particularly enjoys horticulture al fresco, I love to remind the winter naysayers that the sun is actually closer to us these months and that many of our beloved perennials require a period of vernalization in order to flower in the spring. If those fun facts fail to impress, you can (and should!) just get out and see for yourself the many cool plants the Garden’s winter landscape has to offer. Remember, you got to be cold to be cool.

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September’s Gardening Soundtrack

Posted in Horticulture on September 11 2014, by Kristine Paulus

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students and the public on all garden related plant information.


Palm Dome NYBG

I recently became the Plant Records Manager here at NYBG, and when I was offered the position I thought I would be spinning plant records as a DJ at the Orchid Dinner and the Conservatory Ball. Just kidding! However, while I was fully prepared to take on the massive task of keeping tabs on the Garden’s living collections, I still secretly harbor a desire to play plant records—that is to say, to play records (or CDs, or MP3s, or whatever is en vogue now) about plants.

There’s so much good music out there about plants! Sure, there are tons of vague ditties about generic flowers (blue flowers, red flowers, wild flowers, where flowers have gone, and not getting flowers anymore) but I get particularly excited about songs that allow me to “botanize” because they’re about specific plants. Songs about plants that grow here at The New York Botanical Garden are even better.

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