Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Plant Talk

#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
Picture 1 of 11

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.

Celebrating 30 Years of Bronx Green-Up

Posted in Garden News on December 16 2018, by Plant Talk

Ursula Chanse is the Director of Bronx Green-Up and Community Horticulture at The New York Botanical Garden.


Bronx Green-Up

What do rubble-strewn vacant lots, asphalt-covered playgrounds, tiny tracts of land wedged between intersections and train tracks have in common? Each is a perfect location for creating a community garden and urban farm. For 30 years Bronx Green-Up, NYBG’s community gardening outreach program, has worked together with our community partners to create vibrant gardens in the most unlikely spaces.

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Keeping it Local: Sustaining the Soil

Posted in Garden News on December 16 2018, by Plant Talk

Jodie Colón is the Compost Project Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.


NYC Compost ProjectAlthough silver traditionally marks a 25th anniversary, may we suggest gold for ours? Black gold, that is! Specifically, the rich, dark compost made by Bronx residents of all ages trained by the NYC Compost Project at NYBG since 1993.

At that time, as it still is today, food scraps and yard trimmings comprised nearly one-third of what New Yorkers discarded. The NYC Department of Sanitation began funding NYBG Bronx Green-Up staff to engage local residents and our community and school gardeners in composting those materials as a way to reduce waste and revive urban soils.

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Volunteer Profile: Herb Stein

Posted in Garden News on December 14 2018, by Plant Talk

Photo of Herb Stein
Started: 1993
Lifetime Volunteer Hours: 8,489

How long have you been a NYBG volunteer and what was the inspiration for becoming one?
I have been volunteering at NYBG for more than 25 years and have worked in many areas, including the Native Plant Garden, Perennial Garden, and the Nolen Greenhouses. I joined as a volunteer after seeing a mention of the NYBG Volunteer program in the brochure for an evening concert that my wife and I attended many years ago.

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Conservation Starts in Our Gardens

Posted in Garden News on December 11 2018, by Plant Talk

Jessica Arcate Schuler is the Director of the Thain Family Forest at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of a garden

Many gardeners view their gardens as separate and isolated from the larger landscape. In reality, the larger landscape is a connected patchwork of ecosystems that support life. Having an invasive species in our garden does impact a local natural area, planting a diversity of plants including native species benefits wildlife, efficiently managing stormwater, fertilizer, plant health, compost and water use determine a garden’s resilience.

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