Sunday, December 21, 2014

CONTEST Winner - Name the #WashingtonSquarePark Ecology Map

There were 32 entries to the Name the Washington Square Park Ecology Map Contest.

Before announcing the winning name, a thank you to our judges - Casey Brown, Jennifer Casriel, Katherine Keltner, and Cathryn Swan - for considering the names, and to the creative individuals who submitted entries to the contest.

The grand prize for the winning name is a copy each of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City by Leslie Day and New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Bernard. The books were provided courtesy of The John Hopkins University Press and Columbia University Press, respectively.

On to the winning name!

WSP Eco Map. Makes sense, right?! The name is short but it conveys what the map is about. Congratulations to Lorna of Seattle!

The complete name of the map is WSP Eco Map: The Wild Things of Washington Square Park in your Pocket (or your desktop). "Park in Your Pocket" was submitted by Duncan Brine. The contest was not conceived with a runner-up prize but wanting to acknowledge the use of his entry, Duncan was offered a choice of either book. He chose New York City Trees.

The map will be launched in 2015. For details, watch this space or

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

[New Deadline] CONTEST - Name the #WashingtonSquarePark Ecology Map

Image: Daylilies in Washington Square Park, photo courtesy Hubert J. Steed (source)

Washington Square Park Ecology (WSP Ecology) is an environmental initiative to celebrate the wild things in the park. WSP Ecology’s first project is a mobile map of the trees, the historic flow and contemporary route of the channelized Minetta Brook/Creek, and the other environmental assets in the park such as nesting boxes. Local Ecology partnered with Washington Square Park Blog to raise money to hire a map developer. Thirty five donors gave $3,050 to the campaign which was hosted on

The mobile map needs a name! Leave your name suggestion in the comments by Friday, December 14 Monday, December 15 at 11:59 pm EST. The names will be reviewed by Local Ecology, Casey Brown, two donors, and Washington Square Park Blog. The winning name will be announced on Friday, December 21, 2014 - Winter Solstice.

You can also tweet your suggestion to @localecologist (include #WSPEcology). We are also on Facebook at

The winner will receive two books! One copy each of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City by Leslie Day c/o The John Hopkins University Press and New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Bernard c/o Columbia University Press.

Thank you for participating in our version of #GivingTuesday.

P.S. The mobile map was created by GIS and web designer Casey Brown. The tree data is derived from historic and contemporary tree surveys of Washington Square Park commissioned by the NYC Parks and Recreation Department. Creek data was generously provided by Steve Duncan of

P.P.S. WSP Ecology has expanded to offer educational events in the park. This year, Local Ecology collaborated with local photographer Hubert Steed on a plant photography workshop; with Julie Cramer, a NYU Conservation Education graduate student, on a family nature scavenger hunt; and with Leslie Day, PhD on a fall foliage tree walk.


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:

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:

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:

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: 

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:

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:

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.