Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Plant Talk

Living Collections

Posted in Garden News on May 8 2019, by Plant Talk

By Kristine Paulus, Plant Records Manager; Deanna F. Curtis, Senior Curator of Woody Plants and Landscape Project Manager; and Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections.


Photo of Daylily/Daffodil Walk
Daylily/Daffodil Walk

NYBG’s 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape and two glasshouses feature 50 gardens and collections that comprise more than one million plants. Well-maintained and displayed collections show the diversity of the plant kingdom and enrich the experience of all who see them. Beautiful displays make visitors stop and examine plants more closely and learn more from their experience, thus fulfilling NYBG’s mission. More than 90% of the plant collections are accessible to visitors every day the Garden is open. All of the plants in the collections are available for research purposes as needed by members of NYBG’s Science Division staff.

Collections are displayed in many ways. They may be incorporated into the landscape, as are the conifers in the Benenson Ornamental Conifers, featured within dedicated gardens, such as the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, presented in organized beds, such as Daylily/Daffodil Walk, or combined in educationally themed and interpreted displays, as in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest Gallery of the Haupt Conservatory. Additionally, collections are displayed in themed exhibitions, such as the annual Orchid Show.

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The Palm Collection

Posted in Garden News on May 3 2019, by Plant Talk

Photo of an herbarium specimen
Palms growing in the Americas have been a subject of NYBG study for many generations. Collected by Curator of Palms Andrew J. Henderson, Ph.D., et al. in 1991 in Brazil, this specimen of a palm frond was pressed for filing in the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium.

The Palms of the World Gallery is one of the Conservatory’s 11 interconnected galleries, each featuring a different botanical habitat and specimens from around the globe. The Gallery displays New World and Old World palms, cycads, ferns, warmclimate monocots, and a variety of ground covers. Several specimens were cultivated from seed collected by NYBG horticulturists and scientists in the field.

As with all its permanent collections, the Garden is committed to the rigorous stewardship of the living plant collections in the Conservatory, entitled A World of Plants. Collections in glasshouses present a unique set of horticultural opportunities and challenges. The Conservatory provides protection from the elements, warm temperatures, and high humidity, so plants may be cultivated that would not survive outdoors in New York City. Adjustments are made throughout the year, including shading in summer to prevent temperatures inside the Conservatory from becoming too warm for visitors and unbearable for plants.

Because its habitats are designed specifically for palms and other warm-climate plants, the Conservatory requires its horticulturists to monitor plant vigor and ensure healthy soils through periodic rejuvenation and replenishment. Palms present a particular set of challenges when cultivated indoors because most varieties have primary growing points on top of their stems. Some inevitably grow too tall for the enclosure, requiring their removal and replacement with younger specimens.

The palm dome restoration provides NYBG curators the opportunity to perform essential horticultural work on the collection housed in the Palms of the World Gallery. Marc Hachadourian, NYBG’s Director of Glasshouse Horticulture and Senior Curator of Orchids, and Tropical Plant Curator Emerita Francisca Coelho developed a plan that preserves and protects important specimens while introducing new plants. Nearly 180 plants in the Gallery will be preserved in place or transplanted during the restoration process.

This article originally appeared as part of the Spring-Summer 2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about current programs and undertaking at the Garden.

Beginning the Haupt Conservatory’s Palm Dome Restoration

Posted in Garden News on April 25 2019, by Plant Talk

Starting April 29, the iconic dome of the 117-year-old, glass-and-steel Enid A. Haupt Conservatory will undergo restoration in accordance with routine maintenance and operations of the Garden’s facilities. The great Conservatory, the centerpiece and symbol of NYBG, is the preeminent existing American example of the crystal palace glass-and-steel school of design developed in England and Ireland in the mid-19th century. It is the most important glasshouse in the country and one of the most beautiful in the world. Shortly after the Garden’s founding by eminent botanist Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, bryologist Elizabeth Knight Britton, the Board of Trustees authorized the building of the Conservatory, which has required constant maintenance and repair due to the tenuous balance of glass, wood, and metals subject to the heat and moisture required by indoor plants and the constantly changing external weather conditions of New York.

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Daffodils of Every Shape and Shade

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on April 24 2019, by Plant Talk

Right now, cherries and crabapples paint the skies with pinks and purples while the daffodils of our One Million Daffodils initiative paint the ground in glorious swaths of yellows, creams, pinks, and oranges. Here you can see the unique color progression of Narcissus ‘Chromacolor’ as it matures from macaroni orange, to soft peach, to electric coral. Explore the slides to see more of our daffodil collection and the diverse expressions of beauty it offers, and don’t miss this outdoor spectacle as it reaches its peak this weekend on Daffodil Hill and in the Liasson Narcissus Collection!

Daffodil Diversity

Daffodil Diversity
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#plantlove: Cecilia Zumajo, Ph.D. student

Posted in People on March 18 2019, by Plant Talk

As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Cecilia Zumajo, Ph.D. student at the Garden.


Photo of Cecilia ZumajoMy Name is Cecilia Zumajo, and I am a Ph.D. student here at the Garden. I’m studying plant evolution and development, specifically seed ovules and seed development in gymnosperms. I grew up in Colombia, and growing up in a neo-tropical country exposed me to the enormous diversity of flowers and fruits, in terms of shapes, colors, textures—everything! So I started looking at fruits specifically, and all of the genetics underlying the diversity of fruits.

When I came here, the landscape was so very different. Mostly gymnosperms, such as pine trees, ginkgo, all of those. I started looking at them differently because in Colombia I didn’t like gymnosperms at all. For me, they were an invasive thing—we actually have a lot of zamias and cycads originally from Colombia, which are great, but we also cultivate a lot of pine trees for wood. I only knew the pine forest, which impacted the soil by making it more acidic. After the pines, nothing else would grow in that spot.

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Two Decades of the Landscape Design Portfolios Lecture Series

Posted in Garden News on February 7 2019, by Plant Talk

Lisa Whitmer is the Director of Adult Education at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of landscape architecture
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, OLIN

Since the earliest urban public parks and gardens were built, visitors have enjoyed these green spaces, and paused—to appreciate a bit of shade, admire a view, or watch an endless parade of fellow city-dwellers. But it is probable that very few have paused to consider how such places were created, and how all the design decisions made by landscape architects—about the shape of spaces, the slope of the land, the use of light, shade and water, the choice of plants and paving materials, and even the placement of benches—foster our sense of comfort and pleasure in these places.

The goal of the Garden’s annual Landscape Design Portfolios Series is to share this knowledge of the design process through presentations of current work by outstanding landscape architects practicing around the world today. Each fall for the past 20 years, The New York Botanical Garden has provided a public forum for landscape architects and designers to discuss the projects that continue to enhance our lives.

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NYBG Receives New York’s First All-Electric Truck

Posted in Garden News on January 24 2019, by Plant Talk

Photo of NYBG's electric truck

In September 2017, the New York State Attorney General announced that four non-profit organizations had been selected to demonstrate the benefits of battery-powered electric delivery trucks. Named E-Cubed, the innovative project highlights the economic, efficiency, and environmental advantages that all-electric delivery trucks have for New Yorkers. Along with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Habitat for Humanity NYC, and the Big Reuse, The New York Botanical Garden was chosen through a competitive application process to participate in this new program.

Photo of an Electric charging stationOn August 29, 2018, the Garden received the first delivery of the new all-electric truck. The charging station, provided by ChargePoint Inc., has been located near the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory loading dock because of its proximity to available electrical power, ease of installation, and available parking. NYBG will be receiving an additional all-electric rack body truck with a lift gate. Produced by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks, both of these zero-emission vehicles will be used to support core operations and services. With a 75-mile range per overnight charge, they will help to reduce traffic-related soot pollution, create economic and environmental efficiencies, and provide a cost-effective alternative to combustion engines to create a greener New York. The initial lease will be funded for a two-year period and all costs associated with the lease and charging station have been paid for by the Attorney General’s office.

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.

On Becoming a NYBG Urban Naturalist

Posted in Garden News on January 3 2019, by Plant Talk

Lisa Synoradzki is Senior Development Officer at The New York Botanical Garden.


A photo of urban naturalistsIn Oaxaca Journal, renowned neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, M.D., remarks on the contributions that amateurs provide to field science: “A special power of observing and remembering particulars, a special memory for places…a lyrical feeling for nature.” Such is a naturalist I learned in NYBG’s Urban Naturalist Certificate Program. Courses provided a solid grounding on New York City’s plants, birds, and insects; their interactions; how they relate on the Tree of Life; and the ecology of their habitats.

Field trips on Garden grounds and to Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt Parks were chances for our class to practice identification skills and record nature. We learned to identify a sign of forest succession in a meadow—a small grove of sapling sassafras trees, notice the pollination strategies of ephemeral spring beauty flowers—pink lines on white petals that point to nectar, and reflect on the success of American woodcocks in persisting in disturbed areas as we saw them ascend for sky dances at dusk.

As part of the Program, we were asked to create an ecological portrait of a patch in nature. I chose Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove, Long Island, known for its magnificent, mature forest of tulip trees that are being threatened by storm damage, neglect, and an onslaught of invasive species. I documented Welwyn’s flora and fauna, its natural history and condition today, and the potential for restoration. My project led to an invitation from the Long Island Botanical Society (LIBS) to write an article for its newsletter, a presentation for LIBS members, and a nomination to the board of the Torrey Botanical Society. NYBG’s Urban Naturalist Program gave me the training and confidence to communicate about and advocate for the nature I love.

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.

Holiday Train Show Favorites with Laura Busse Dolan

Posted in Holiday Train Show on January 2 2019, by Plant Talk

Join Laura Busse Dolan, owner of Applied Imagination, for a quick tour of the New York landmark replicas created by her company of artists that most speak to her, from the familiar silhouette of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to the Electric Tower of Luna Park. They’re all here on view at NYBG through January 21 as the Holiday Train Show continues into the new year—don’t miss it!

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Saint Patrick's Cathedral
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One of the earliest examples of our more elaborate botanical models, this structure took three different artists to complete, and uses over 60 different plant parts in its detail. The front rose window alone contains Siberian iris seed pods, grapevine, poppy seeds, eucalyptus pods, and pine cone scales.