Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Self-guided fall foliage tree tour of Washington Square Park

This guide is based on the Fall Foliage Tree Walk of Washington Square Park organized by WSP Ecology and led by Leslie Day, PhD on November 14, 2014. Unless otherwise noted, the tree photographs are courtesy of Hubert J. Steed from his Trees - Washington Square Park gallery. If you visit the Washington Square Park before the end of the month you may be able to use this guide, otherwise you'll have to wait until next fall. Also, not every tree visited during the actual tour is recorded below.

Image: English elm, March 31, 2011 (source: localecology.org)

Begin your walk at the historic English elm at the northwest corner of the park. The tree is reportedly over 300 years old.

Image: The London plane pictured above is located near the Holley Monument. The photo is by Hubert J. Steed.
Proceed east and look north along the path to a London plane. The species is the most common street tree in NYC and its leaf looks suspiciously like the NYC Parks logo.

Image: A type of white oak (source: localecology.org)

Walk further still for a type of white oak. It could be a swamp white oak or a swamp chestnut oak. Compare these two oaks here. The fall foliage of both species is russet.

Look north for a mulberry. If the leaves are dull, it's a red mulberry; if they are shiny, then it's a white mulberry. Compare the species here.

Look south for a very large American sycamore or Platanus occidentalis. The American sycamore is one of the parents of the hybrid London plane; the other is the Oriental plane or Platanus orientalis.

To the right of the playground's gate is a star magnolia.

Walk behind the Arch and stop in front of the first grove of trees on your right (or southeast of the Arch). You will see (and possibly smell) a Ginkgo. Just beyond the Ginkgo - and its vibrantly yellow fall foliage - are red oaks - a mix of Northern red and pin oaks.

Continue on the path and turn right (or south) the next time you can. You should see a red maple. The fall foliage is red but so are the twigs, flowers, and samaras in their seasons.

Image: Leslie Day, PhD touching the burl on the Osage orange (source: localecology.org.)

If you return to the main (outer) path, you should see a large tree growing in the middle of the path. It is an Osage orange. Notice the burl on its trunk.

Image: A Sophora leaf is compound with 7-17 leaflets (source: localecology.org) 

Keep walking south and on your right you should notice several Sophoras (the new Latin name is Styphnolobium japonicum). Observe the leaves - they are composed of leaflets.

Image: Fissures on the bark of a black locust (source: localecology.org)

Continue walking south then turn right (or west) - the last right turn you can make from the path. On the north side of the path is a large black locust. (There is a black locust stump southeast of the large playground.)

Turn around and you should see a goldenraintree. Notably are the dried, lantern-like seedpods. The fall foliage is yellow.

Image: Sweetgum with fruit - leaf and fruit detail here (source: localecology.org)

Walk past the LaGuardia Place entrance and the little dogs dog run and just before the Thompson Street entrance, face south to see a sweetgum. You may find its spiky fruit nearby. The fall colors are striking yellow, red, and purple.

Turn right (north) then look east at two new tulip trees. Check out the tulip tree allee at the New York Botanical Garden. Let's hope these WSP trees reach maturity!

Walk towards the fountain then turn left (or west). There is a large Northern catalpa bursting with lime-yellow leaves growing just before you reach the Holley Monument.

You have completed the tour given on November 14, 2014. Watch this space for an announcement of a spring tree walk.

Top photo courtesy of Hubert J. Steed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nature Scavenger Hunt in Washington Square Park

On a beautiful Saturday last month, 16 families participated in the inaugural Nature Scavenger Hunt in Washington Square Park. The scavenger hunt was a project of WSP Ecology in collaboration with Julie Cramer of the NYU Conservation Education program.

Washington Square Park is naturally divided into four quadrants. A guide was prepared for each quadrant and we assigned families - four per - to each quadrant. Participants collected acorns from red oaks, hugged really big trees including the historic English elm, smelled stinky fruits of the Ginkgo, looked for squirrel dreys, found muddy puddles, and more. Each child received a box with compartments for collecting as well as a small green lidded box. After 45 minutes we gathered again to review our finds.

We were sent a child's drawing of her collection box, the little green box, each leaf and seed pod and acorn cap in its own compartment. The items drawn are a pine needle, hawthorn stem, gingko nut, hawthorn leaf, and acorn cap, and below the box are four catalpa seedpods. We were told that Lara "showed her finds to everybody who came to the house." Also, Lara will "take the box again when we go to any park."

The next WSP Ecology event is a Fall Foliage Tree Walk led by Leslie Day, PhD on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 11 a.m. Please RSVP! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sukkah in Washington Square Park

The sukkah has returned to Washington Square Park. This year, Sukkot is observed from October 8 to October 15. Sukkot is a harvest festival and building a sukkah is the first step in celebrating the holiday. The sukkah must be located outdoors - "under the open sky" - with a vegetated roof and a minimum of two and half walls.

Image: Sukkah, Washington Square Park, 2011
The park's sukkah in 2011 was built by the NYU Chabad House. This year's sukkah has a similar design so I assume it was also constructed by the university Chabad House.

My introduction to Sukkot was the Sukkah City 2010 exhibition in Union Square Park. The twelve competition finalists displayed their sukkahs for two days. A couple of my favorites are shown below. For more photos, read Sukkah City in Union Square Park.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Window Box Gardens in Munich, Seattle, Tokyo, and London

Last year we reached out to friends of the blog who garden and/or love gardens to tell us about their window boxes. We received four responses and fortunately there were no repeat locations. Leslie Kuo of Urban Plant Research is an admirer of other Berliners' window boxes in Berlin (she's since relocated to Hawaii). Kelly Brenner of Metropolitan Field Guide plants for wildlife in Seattle. Across the Pacific, Jared Braiterman of Tokyo Green Space gardens on his balcony. And back to the Atlantic, Melissa Harrison grows vibrantly red strawberries in South London. (Melissa Harrison is the author of the novel Clay and blogs at Tales of the City.)

Image: Strawberries in South London, image courtesy Melissa Harrison

For primer on how to garden in exterior window boxes, check out Gardenista's Hardscaping 101: Window Boxes. Need plants for an interior window box? Consider these species for the windowsill which were photographed during my Sprout Home field trip.

P.S. The first image is of one of many window boxes at 41 Bond Street in NYC.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tree guides to five Manhattan playgrounds

Image: London planetrees tower over the jungle gym at the Playground of the Americas

My most recent collaboration with ioby was the successful fundraising campaign for a mobile map of the trees and other wild things in Washington Square Park also known as Washington Square Park Ecology.  A couple of years ago, I was invited by the organization to write a local ecology series for the organization's blog. We decided on tree guides to five playgrounds in downtown Manhattan. 

Naturally, a guide for Washington Square Park was the first installment! Learn about the Trees in Tot Playground in Washington Square Park.  The remaining four guides are the Trees of the Playground of the Americas, the Trees of Minetta Playground, the Trees of the Playground at Pier 25, and the Trees of Evelyn’s Playground in Union Square Park.

Do you have a favorite treed playground? Let us know in the comments.

This post has been edited. It was originally published on June 25, 2012.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Martha and the extinction of passenger pigeons

"...100 years ago this week, the very last pigeon of her kind died in her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo. Her name was Martha, and her passing merits our close attention today." Read Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick essay about the "swift" eradication of the species and the lesson of "timely conservation" in the New York Times Sunday Review.

Joel Greenberg, who wrote a book and produced a film about passenger pigeons, penned a requiem for Martha at Yale E360. Barry Yeoman for Audubon Magazine also wrote about what this species' extinction can teach us.

NPR covered a commemorative event for Martha at the Cincinnati Zoo.

National Geographic wrote about the de-extinction of the passenger pigeon!

P.S. In today's Times, Andy Revkin argues that the 19th century social network, the telegraph, hastened the demise of the passenger pigeon, while today, social media might "forestall future extinctions."

P.P.S. Was there an "additional factor" in the demise of the passenger pigeon? Elizabeth Kolbert discusses possible scenarios in The New Yorker.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Wild About: Ants

Wild About is a celebration of the flora and fauna commonly found in our cities. Instead of fact sheets, this space will showcase books, art, music, societies, and whimsical objects about urban-adaptable plants and animals. If you would like to see your favorite urban-oriented plant or animal featured, please email us at info at localecology dot org. 

Image: Unknown species of ant, Fossil Butte National Monument, WY by Sam Droege via USGS Bee Lab Flickr (source)

Have you ever collected ants? Almost two years ago I joined the Your Wild Life team on an ant collecting expedition in Riverside Park. The preferred bait for park ants is pecan sandies! I learned how to capture ants with tweezers -- squeeze gently.

Image: Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants of New York City cover via Your Wild Life (source)

A great resource about New York City ants is Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City. Dr. Eleanor is a member of the Your Wild Life Team. You can download her book for free on iTunes.

If you want to see "high quality images of all the world's ant species," check out AntWeb. There are 158,626 total specimen images archived on the website.

Image: Unknown species of ant, Fossil Butte National Monument, WY by Sam Droege via USGS Bee Lab Flickr (source)

Bees are the central characters of Laline Paull's debut novel, The Bees, but they are not the only insects to star as fictional protagonists. E. O. Wilson, renowned for his ant expertise, wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about ants titled Anthill. His short story "Trailhead" was published in The New Yorker in 2010. Is "Trailhead" excerpted from Anthill? His 1990 non-fiction book with Bert Hölldobler, The Ants, also received a Pulitzer.

Watch NOVA's profile of Wilson here. The program is titled Lord of the Ants!

For a bit of fun, watch a video of The Ants Go Marching. (Note: there is a commercial preceding the video.) Want to wear something antsy? The MoMA store sells a MoMA Ants tote bag.

More Wild About
Snowy owls
Eating insects

P.S. Did anyone see the Ants in the City Solo Exhibition by Su-Chen Hung in San Francisco last year?

Wild About was inspired by Design*Sponge's Animal Love.