Inside The New York Botanical Garden

From the Library

Book Review: Montana’s Pioneer Botanists

Posted in From the Library on August 17 2017, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Montana's Pioneer Botanists, edited by Rachel Potter and Peter LesicaMontana’s Pioneer Botanists: Exploring the Mountains and Prairies is a new book from editors Rachel Potter and Peter Lesica, with an introduction by Jack Nisbet.

Montana’s Pioneer Botanists, a collection of biographies of regional botanists working in Montana, is the type of book that I really enjoy. Collections like this are essential for documenting and remembering important regional workers while sharing their legacy with the world. As is the case with other books of this ilk, some of the figures profiled in Montana’s Pioneer Botanists are known to a wider audience (Meriwether Lewis, for example), while others are beloved local heroes. In his introduction, Nisbet writes, “The subjects here hold a keen awareness of those who came before them, lending a strong sense of continuity to the entire project.” This continuity travels beyond Montana documenting ties between Montana botanists and the wider world, including the New York Botanical Garden. For example, botanist Robert Statham Williams (1859-1945) collected plants in Montana for years before joining the New York Botanical Garden in 1899. John Leiberg (1853-1913), another botanist profiled in this work, was a correspondent of Elizabeth Britton throughout his career.

In an excellent earlier review of this work, Dr. Patricia Holmgren, Director Emerita of New York Botanical Garden Herbarium, wrote: “Hear ye, hear ye! Librarians, botanists, herbarium curators, historians, book aficionados! You are going to love Montana’s Pioneer Botanists, a gold mine of information about botanical exploration in Montana, beginning with indigenous people and ending with Klaus Lackschewitz (1911-1995).” Indeed, this book, although very specific in its focus, does have wide appeal for anyone who is interested in botany, history, or biography. Dr. Holmgren’s review also includes mention of some of the interesting anecdotes within this text, one involving NYBG’s own Elizabeth Britton. My singular disappointment with this book, not a criticism of the editors but of the history of science more generally, is that only two women are profiled within the thirty-one essays in this work. As the editors included biographies only for scientists who are deceased, this is cited as the reason for the imbalance.

Thanks are due to Potter and Lesica for completing this work. It’s an excellent addition to the library’s collections at NYBG, and will hopefully serve as inspiration for others to accomplish future projects of this nature.

Children’s Books Encourage a Healthy Dose of Nature

Posted in From the Library on August 15 2017, by Samantha D’Acunto

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.


Cover of the Hugging TreeThe newest titles to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library circulating children’s collection share the many ways in which exposure to nature can be beneficial to your health. Nature can be healing to both the mind and the body and one is never too young to experience its benefits. Advanced readers interested in this topic may want to consider titles such as Last Child in the Woods and Nature Fix. The titles featured below are stories that encourage young readers to be socially aware of their surroundings as well as their mental and physical health.

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Dumbarton Oaks Study Day

Posted in From the Library on August 10 2017, by Vanessa Sellers

Humanities
Dumbarton Oaks Workshop participants at The New York Botanical Garden, enjoying a detailed tour

During the last week of June, the Humanities Institute at NYBG hosted a special Study Day for a group of landscape historians and professionals, including architectural historians, garden and landscape designers, and urban planners. The aim of this program was to provide current students and professionals with a comprehensive insider tour of The New York Botanical Garden as one of America’s foremost urban green spaces—a national landmark comprising historic buildings and rare plant and book collections.

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Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction

Posted in From the Library on August 7 2017, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Photo of the cover of Citizen ScientistCitizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction is a book from popular science writer Mary Ellen Hannibal on the topic of citizen science.

Citizen science is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur (or nonprofessional) scientists. Citizen science projects can include all manner of tasks and objectives, and many popular projects involve non-scientists making reports about organisms they have observed, such as bloom times, or phenology, of various plants. Still other projects involve virtual volunteering, such as transcribing specimen label data of herbarium sheets (or other specimens) that have been digitized and made available online.

In her book, Hannibal writes about her experiences working as a citizen scientist on various projects, mostly involving the observation of animals under the direction of trained professional scientists. It is clear that Hannibal enjoys the English language, and this memoir of sorts is littered with references to literary works, historical figures, and poetry-like observations of the natural world. It’s not really a science book at all, although Hannibal does write in praise of the natural world.

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Children’s Books Explore the Power of Community

Posted in From the Library on August 4 2017, by Samantha D’Acunto

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.


The LuEsther T. Mertz Library will like to share the newest titles to our circulating children’s collection. The featured titles below are extraordinary examples of community efforts and what can truly be accomplished when we work together. Communities can take shape in a variety of ways so whatever your community looks like and wherever it is located, these titles will surely inspire you to build upon the strengths of your friends and neighbors to help make a difference in your community. From our community to yours, we hope you enjoy these titles the next time you visit us in the library!

The Flower Man by Mark LudyThe Flower Man by Mark Ludy

The Flower Man is a wordless picture book that invites readers to follow a small elderly man as he travels from town to town bringing color and happiness to everyone he encounters. A simple garden or a single flower can bring joy to all; The Flower Man does just that! Author Mark Ludy is sending a clear message: investing in the beautification of your neighborhood with color, flowers and greenery will directly benefit the residence and visitors, leading to a friendlier and healthier environment.

As each page begins to fill with color readers may find a smile is hard to contain. Ludy’s intentional use of color is meant to elicit emotion and it is certainly successful! From monochrome to a full color palette readers will experience a transformation like no other. Look carefully as you turn each page as the intricate details of the town should not be overlooked. The neighborhood pictured is home to many nameless characters that offer themselves to the imagination of an observant reader. The Flower Man was an instant favorite amongst the LuEsther T. Mertz Library staff and I believe it will continue to be for many years to come. We’re inviting all readers of all reading levels to experience the colorful world of The Flower Man! This title is available for check out for library cardholders. Hope to see you in the library!

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A New World of Medicines

Posted in From the Library on August 1 2017, by Vanessa Sellers

Photo of the reading room
Paul Theerman, Arlene Shaner, and co-hosts Lisa O’Sullivan and Vanessa Sellers flank speaker Samir Boumediene at center

On May 12, 2017, the Humanities Institute of The New York Botanical Garden and the New York Academy of Medicine Library co-presented the Garden’s Science-Humanities Seminar featuring the French scholar Samir Boumediene, from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Lyon. Boumediene’s talk was entitled A New World of Medicines: Amerindian Pharmacopoeias During the Spanish Colonization, and he spoke to a completely filled Mertz Library Reading Room. Boumediene’s presentation focused on his new—and already largely sold out—book, which, based on his Ph.D. dissertation, had just recently been published in France as La Colonisation du Savoir, Une Histoire des Plantes Médicinales du Nouveau Monde,1492–1750 (Vaulx-en-Velin: Les Éditions des Mondes à Faire, 2016).

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Seeing Trees, Flowers, and Seeds

Posted in From the Library on July 31 2017, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Seeing TreesSeeing Trees, Seeing Flowers, and Seeing Seeds are three beautiful books by the photographer Robert Llewellyn with authors Nancy Ross Hugo and Teri Dunn Chace. Together, these three books represent Llewellyn’s fascination with the plant kingdom. This series of works explores mainly the reproductive parts of plants with text accompanying almost painterly photographs of different species.

In a 2015 interview for Mother Nature Network, Llewellyn stated of himself that, “there was a sudden realization that trees were alive. They were another civilization living with us on Earth. They were born and they died. They made flowers and seeds and sent their children out into the world. I wanted to know more, so I studied and photographed parts on the tree. I started looking at Earth as if I was visiting another planet for the first time. I was amazed at what was hiding in plain sight.”

seeing seedsThis sense of amazement has been successfully transferred to readers of his works. Using a technique called “focus stacking,” Llewellyn may take 100 frames or more of a plant portrait with each photograph having a different focal point. Then the frames are input to a “stacking” software and rendered as a single image.

This technique allows for Llewellyn to capture botanical details that even the most steady-handed traditional macro-photographer would be unlikely to achieve.

seeing flowersThe large color photographs in the Seeing series make the plants seem, at times, unreal or alien in their beauty. Llewellyn for the most part seems to focus on species native to the Mid-Atlantic United States, possibly because of his need to photograph live material as opposed to herbarium specimens. As a result, readers hailing from this region will recognize many of the plants in these three works, gaining a new perspective on familiar friends. Of the three works, my favorite is Seeing Flowers. In this book, author Teri Dunn Chace has arranged the text so that the flower photographs are grouped by botanical family. This adds an element of botanical scholarship to what might otherwise be more of an art book. Indeed, my only real criticism of the Seeing series is that the authors and photographer don’t always provide botanical names for the organisms featured. Unfortunately, this means that Seeing Trees and Seeing Seeds have less scientific or teaching value than they do artistic merit.

Many of Llewellyn’s photographs can be viewed online. If your interest is piqued by his website, I strongly encourage you to seek out the Seeing series, and prepare for your breath to be taken away.

Apartment Gardening & Salad Days

Posted in From the Library on July 29 2017, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Apartment GardeningI recently discovered Amy Pennington and almost immediately fell in love with her simple, straightforward books written for city-dwellers trying to eat thriftily, sustainably, and seasonally. I reviewed both Urban Pantry and Fresh Pantry earlier this year and now have the pleasure of reviewing Apartment Gardening and Salad Days, both from Sasquatch Books, an independent press located in Seattle, WA.

Apartment Gardening is geared toward readers who really want to grow garden plants at home but have no yard and little space. While Pennington has written her guide for those who have a deck or porch (sadly, not the case for many!), she’s quick to emphasize that if you have good sun *somewhere* in your urban dwelling, you can try your hand at growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, or even flowers. Not all vegetables can be successfully grown in containers, but there are a lot of vegetables that will do quite well with good sunlight, soil, and water. Roughly 80 pages of this economically sized book detail garden setup and care, with the rest of the book (181 pages total) focused on recipes, craft projects, and other simple garden tricks and tips for apartment dwellers and vegetable lovers. Apartment Gardening is a great book for new gardeners living in the urban jungle or for experienced gardeners who find themselves with limited garden space and the desire (or need!) to grow a “garden.”

salad daysSalad Days: Boost Your Health and Happiness with 75 Simple, Satisfying Recipes for Greens, Grains, Proteins, and More is another nice book released earlier this year. Pennington shares simple but delicious recipes for the home cook. “Can a salad make you happy?” These salads created by Pennington are designed to do just that. Although you can’t grow all of the ingredients in your apartment garden, the ingredients are mostly straight-forward. Sure, salmon and avocado have their day, but a beet salad recipe contains only 10 ingredients, and that includes a dressing recipe.

Overall, I just plain like Pennington’s love of growing and eating vegetables, her commitment to flavor diversity, and her sense of economy. I look forward to re-reading these four books and seeing what she thinks up next.

Ancient Brews & Growing a Revolution

Posted in From the Library on July 27 2017, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Growing a Revolution: Bringing our Soil Back to Life, by David R. MontgomeryGrowing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life by David R. Montgomery challenges the “norm” in industrial farming soil care. With research, interviews, and an engaging style of writing, Montgomery invites readers and farmers alike to consider the ways in which soil fertility can be improved with better soil care.

Growing a Revolution follows fast on the heels of Montgomery’s 2016 book, The hidden half of nature : the microbial roots of life and health. Montgomery, a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, has made a career out of soil. Revolution is the work of an author who is comfortable with his chosen subject and skilled at writing for a popular audience. The question that Montgomery poses to readers is simple, yet daunting in its scope. “What if there was a relatively simple, cost-effective way to help feed the world, reduce pollution, pull carbon from the atmosphere, protect biodiversity, and make farmers money to boot?” The answer, as readers might guess, is to cultivate good soil health.

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Colloquium: Food, Tech, and the City

Posted in From the Library on July 26 2017, by Vanessa Sellers

Photo of the Colloqiuium
Participants gathered in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Reading Room of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, NYBG.

On Friday, March 24, 2017, the Humanities Institute hosted the Food, Tech, and the City colloquium, organized in conjunction with Fordham University’s Urban Consortium.

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