Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Garden News

Extreme Compost Makeover: Organizing Community Composting Sites

Posted in Garden News on January 13 2020, by Jodie Colón

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

Photo of NYC Compost Project volunteers

When it comes to organizing your closets, the latest trend is to only keep items that spark joy. Many gardeners in Bronx Green-Up gardens apply that principle to their compost bins. But often they happily keep every leaf, branch, weed, and kitchen scrap out of the landfill. When an overflow of joy accumulates, they know who to call—our NYC Compost Project. We swoop in to help reorganize compost bins, tame piles of plant materials, and give sites a fresh start. Yet, just like on those reality shows, the clutter inevitably creeps back.

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New Food Initiative: The Bronx Canasta

Posted in Garden News on January 9 2020, by Ursula Chanse

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

Photo of Bronx Canasta hot sauce participantsReady for a new Bronx-made and inspired taste?

The New York Botanical Garden’s Bronx Green-Up is excited to be part of an exciting new food initiative, The Bronx Canasta. This innovative food production and economic empowerment project aims to build self- reliance of Bronx communities to grow their own food and create, market, and distribute value-added products based on crops grown in the Bronx. The Bronx Canasta, which secured four years of funding through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Food Project grant, grew out of Bronx Green-Up’s long- standing food, farming, and community gardening partnerships with The Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, Brook Park Youth Farm, International Rescue Committee, La Familia Verde Community Garden Coalition, Morris Campus Educational Farm, and Small Axe Peppers.

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Posted in Garden News on July 23 2019, by Plant Talk

Matthew C. Pace, Ph.D., is an Assistant Curator at The New York Botanical Garden.

In our Steere Herbarium, aAn NYBG employee digitizing specimens. combination of capturing ultra high-resolution images of specimens and entering detailed information about each specimen in a searchable database is making this scientific collection easily available to anyone with an internet connection. Among other benefits, this online resource will help researchers overcome the acute problem of access to specimens of threatened and endangered species. Deeper understanding of the various adaptations of the species and their evolution will make it possible to design better conservation and management strategies. The public’s interest in these charismatic and captivating plants also affords an opportunity to engage students and teachers in discussions about biodiversity and its preservation, plant adaptations, and mutually beneficial species relationships. Additionally, the availability of two million digitized records will enhance the education and enjoyment of citizen scientists, horticultural hobbyists, and other non-academic enthusiasts.

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Endless Forms

Posted in Garden News on July 19 2019, by Plant Talk

Matthew C. Pace, Ph.D., is an Assistant Curator at The New York Botanical Garden.

Photo of flowersFocusing on some of Earth’s most interesting and endangered plant species, NYBG is leading a network of 17 collaborating U.S. research institutions that will digitize more than two million preserved plant specimens over the next three years to make this invaluable scientific resource easily available online to plant and conservation researchers, students, and the general public.

The project, “Digitizing ‘endless forms’: Facilitating Research on Imperiled Plants with Extreme Morphologies,” will concentrate on 15 plant families containing species that are carnivorous or succulent or that grow on other plants, known as epiphytes. Among the several hundred thousand species included in the project are such iconic and unusual plants as the Venus’s flytrap, the giant saguaro cactus, and the leafless ghost orchid of southern Florida. All of the species in the project display, in one way or another, remarkably varied types of adaptations that allow them to grow in extreme environments, including deserts, tropical rain forests, and nutrient-poor bogs. Many of these plants can be challenging to study in the wild and confront elevated conservation threats in the face of rapid environmental change.

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The Archival Process

Posted in Garden News on June 13 2019, by Plant Talk

Jane Dorfman is a former Mertz Library Reference Librarian & Exhibitions Coordinator and current NYBG Volunteer.

Photo of Maguire
(l-r) Bassett Maguire, Celia Maguire, and NYBG curator John J. Wurdack in preparation for Neblina II expedition, 1957

After Bassett Maguire’s death, Celia Maguire worked tirelessly to ensure her husband’s scientific legacy. She did so by organizing the vast amount of his personal and professional papers and material and, with the assistance and support of the Mertz Library, made the Bassett Maguire Archive a reality.

When Stephen Sinon, William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research and Archives, invited me to work on the Bassett Maguire Archive project, it never occurred to me that I would spend nearly 1,000 hours over four years sifting through more than 100 boxes and several carts filled with personal and professional papers, artifacts, slides, photographs, maps, and masks, plus worldwide correspondence from prominent scientists, as well as from his two wives and mother. At times it was a bit overwhelming and I often felt, with this mountain of boxes in front of me, that Dr. Maguire’s “Lost World” of Cerro de la Neblina, was my lost world too.

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LuEsther T. Mertz Library Collection: Bassett Maguire Archive

Posted in Garden News on May 28 2019, by Stephen Sinon

By Susan Fraser, Thomas J. Hubbard Vice President and Director, and Stephen Sinon, William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research and Archives, LuEsther T. Mertz Library

Neblina expedition, 1953–54.
Photo: Kathleen D. Phelps

The Institutional Archives of The New York Botanical Garden preserves and documents the activities of the Garden as an important international cultural and research organization dedicated to the research, education and display of plants. From its inception in 1891 to the present day, the records of the organization have been gathered and organized and are often consulted for historical and scholarly research. These records are related to the general administration and activity of the Garden, its Directors and Presidents, Board of Trustees, Collections, Buildings, and Gardens. These materials document not only the scientific legacies of the Garden and its staff, but also the social interactions and professional achievements of NYBG researchers. The records of Bassett Maguire (1904–91) is one such collection of note.

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Hardy Fern Collection

Posted in Garden News on May 20 2019, by Claire Lyman

Claire Lyman is the Assistant Curator of Outdoor Gardens at The New York Botanical Garden.

Photo of the hardy fern collectionThe F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection was established in 1985 with the generous donation of Mr. Foster, fern hobbyist, lecturer author, and honorary fern horticulturist at NYBG. This core of donated plants was supplemented by hardy ferns already at NYBG and its Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum in Millbrook, N.Y. This sparked a massive wave of effort from a team of NYBG horticulturists and botanists to further develop, interpret, and create a long-term plan for the now sizable hardy fern collection. In 1987 John T. Mickel, Senior Curator of Ferns, and Joseph M. Beitel, Horticultural Taxonomist and Curator of Plant Records, wrote A Guide to The F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection at The New York Botanical Garden, which has remained an important resource on hardy ferns for the past 32 years.

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Conservation Collection in the Native Plant Garden

Posted in Garden News on May 14 2019, by Michael Hagen

Michael Hagen is Curator of the Native Plant Garden and the Rock Garden at The New York Botanical Garden.

Photo of the Native Plant GardenNYBG is a founding member of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), a network of now more than 50 leading botanic institutions and conservation partners. Working collaboratively since its founding in 1984, the network’s aim is to prevent the extinction of the imperiled native plants of the United States and Canada, with the only coordinated national program of off-site (ex situ) conservation of rare plant material, the National Collection of Endangered Plants. Believed to be the largest living collection of rare plants in the world, the collection contains over 1,400, almost one third, of America’s most imperiled native plants.

As an important conservation resource, the Collection is a backup in case a species becomes extinct or no longer reproduces in the wild, with live plant material collected from nature under controlled conditions and then carefully maintained as seed, rooted cuttings or mature plants. It is also a valuable resource for the scientific study of these rare plants, their life cycles and seed germination requirements.

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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.