Burdock in Bloom

Burdock in Bloom . . .

Blooming Burdock in a Breeze (photo taken 08 12 2014)

Blooming Burdock in a Breeze
(photo taken 08 12 2014)

“Elephant Ears” spoke to a detail everyone pointed out whilst on walks through the leafy city neighborhood of my boyhood. Autumn hikes and winter downhill sled rides encountered “Burrs” on the wool clothing that kept me warm. The plant continues to make its presence known as a sure neighbor.

Today Lesser Burdock is in bloom throughout the region. Attractive stands of Arctium minus, of the family Asteraceae, can be found along the west in Van Cortlandt Park and in Riverside Park and in scattered patches farther south in Manhattan. The latter stands remain lush until gardening companies turn wild plant fields to brown lawn.

No negativity from here shall be introduced to the curating of plants. I do continue to uphold a broader definition than recent standard, as in my lexicon I do include IMMIGRANTS rather than “invasives” or “invasive species” – terms to me that beyond technical definition ring hollow given the diverse people, the first source of all these mixed species, who have also come to populate the Western Hemisphere.

Burdock varieties hail from Continental European sources. The plant lives as a vigorous green, edible when young, with health benefits as a digestive. The innumerable hooked spines of the seed heads, burrs, inspired a Swiss inventor, George de Mestral, to do the studies that resulted in the useful tool we have named Velcro.

The plant rises from a stout central stem that supports lobed ovate leaves that narrow toward the tips, all arranged in a graceful, aesthetically pleasing manner, like draping pachyderm ears. Some leaf parasites often tunnel their way within, leaving topical asymmetrical veination as summer progresses. Flowers appear tight and spiked in a purple to true pink quality akin to thistles. Once browned by the end of the season, seed heads become bunches of burrs on stalks. Animals: birds, and the most prevalent mammal of all, people, when out of doors, all help to spread the Lesser Burdock to a greater range.

A quartet of young "Elephant Ears" (photo taken 08 12 2014

A quartet of young “Elephant Ears”
(photo taken 08 12 2014

Greater hardiness marks this plant’s vitality as well. Ava Chin, author of Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal, describes mingling Burdock with other early winter greens.

But now high summer reigns August. This year’s is damp and cooler, averaging in the eighty degrees Fahrenheit, giving more urban green than on hot, dry years. Burdock is in abundance in this weather. Burdock is in bloom.

Blooming Burdock Bough (photo taken 08 12 2014)

Blooming Burdock Bough
(photo taken 08 12 2014)

– rPs 08 13 2014

Postscript:

Read More About Burdock. “Earthy, Crunchy Burdock” by Ava Chin: The New York Times City Room blog, Urban Forager, 12 18 2010:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/urban-forager-earthy-crunchy-burdock/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Wikipedia biography of George de Mestral: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_de_Mestral

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Flowers Like Fireworks

Flowers Like Fireworks . . .

A Raceme like a Rocket: American Pokeweed (photo taken 07 04 2014)

A Raceme like a Rocket: American Pokeweed (photo taken 07 04 2014)

American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, has begun to bloom in lush scattered patches in Riverside Park. The white flowers are displayed on racemes that resemble ascending rockets, or fireworks. This American native then makes an appropriate symbol for the holiday.

Happy 4th of July!

– rPs 07 04 2014

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Wildflower Cabin in the Woods

Wildflower Cabin in the Woods . . .

The Cabin (photo taken 06 21 2014)

The Cabin (photo taken 06 21 2014)

Bloomsday remains the 16th of June as time continues to pass through a June in bloom.

River runs and a weekend visit yet again along the west side, along the banks of the Hudson River, this outing situated near the southern end of Lake George, also an impressive water body filling big grooved earth in the domed range of the Andirondack Mountains.

Lake George, Looking North (photo taken 06 22 2014)

Lake George, Looking North (photo taken 06 22 2014)

The Hudson River’s glinting flow could be seen from a small clearing in the trees on the cabin’s west side. The sun was high on the first days of summer. Evenings followed around a crackling forest kindling fire accompanied by starry nights and the tumbling sound wave of the water flush in strong motion.

This Hudson face here is lined by trees and ferns that flank and shade a broad, cobblestone, relatively shallow and even trout river. The translucent flow rips. Wading best done makes the sport a fusion exercise of yoga, hiking, and bouldering, blended. One stretch possesses a scattering of exposed monoliths near to both sides with numerous current slots and runs that hold recalcitrant trout; a rare mix of brook, rainbow, and brown. The full environment bears green banks, buffering sounding, moving water; crisp air in the form of mild breezes; and, at the start of this new summer, bright sun, almost white, filtered little by washed blue sky.

The sum mixed on this outing weighty enough to have left quite an imprint, more a full sensory movie that shall play again and again, I am sure, in one mind during subway rides.

Hudson River as Trout Stream (photo taken 06 22 2014)

Hudson River as Trout Stream (photo taken 06 22 2014)

Page white cumulus, real whipped cream toppings tipped by a twist from a painterly brush, arrived middle morning from the direction northeast. A sloping hillside hike back to the cabinside revealed feral white daisies, true Marsh Speedwell (Veronica scuttelatta), and a small number of burnt orange flowers, Asteraceae, fixed atop taut fuzzy stalks standing center of basal rosettes. This flower is one I included in my novella, Little Hills. The excerpt here conveys my point:

“They walked the cut path, passing here and there through the lingering sun-warmed aroma of grass. Young Robert pictured these patches of scent as invisible little cloud islands in the air. To either side of them, brilliant orange hawkweed blooms posed on the top of slender fuzzy stems rising from basal rosettes. A few white cabbage butterflies dappled small shadows around the flowers.”

Orange Hawkweed in Dappled Shade.

Orange Hawkweed in Dappled Shade.

Orange Hawkweed (species Hieracium). I also encountered a more yellow variety beside one of the roller coasters I dared engage on the park grounds of Great Escape: Six Flags.

Yellow Hawkweed at Great Escape: Six Flags.

Yellow Hawkweed at Great Escape: Six Flags.

Hawkweed: a wildflower I may always associate with summer fun with family and friends.

Wildflowers in the West Village spirit, still.

– rPs 06 26 2014

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NYC Wildflower Week

NYC Wildflower Week . . .

Grass Lilies (Ornithogalum umbellatum) bloom at the beginning of NYC Wildflower Week. (photo taken 05 10 2014)

Grass Lilies (Ornithogalum umbellatum) bloom at the beginning of NYC Wildflower Week. (photo taken 05 10 2014)

The seventh annual NYC Wildflower Week is in full swing with a variety of events scheduled through Sunday, May 18th. Visit the website listed on the blogroll to the right for more information.

– rPs 05 16 2014

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Eating Wildly

Eating Wildly . . .

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin




Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

By Ava Chin
Hardback, 245 pp.
Simon & Schuster, May 2014

When a writer writes about what she or he knows, the final product – the book – will be at its best if one part art and one part life glued together with a unique experience where the two have met.

Ava Chin, I am happy to report, has succeeded on all counts with her debut; an informative, personable, and innovative memoir released today, May 13, 2014, by Simon & Schuster:

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

Ava’s botanical journalism has been mentioned several times here at Wildflowers of the West Village. She has returned the favor in kind in her “Urban Forager” column featured in the City Room section of The New York Times. Eating Wildly appropriates parts of that writing project, pairs it with an intimate, at times frank, personal history, one that has flowered into the fruit of a literary urban forger.

Family roots, grounded especially by supportive and culinary grandparents, allowed Ava to grow up as a New Yorker with a contemplative artist’s eye and a sophisticated, yet unpretentious, palate for wild and otherwise regionally-sourced food. This subject she knows, and combined here with her learned writer’s talent for rendering experience in words, the result is a savory read seasoned by some key, occasionally bittersweet, aspects of her own story.

The book begins with a walk, that activity so often entwined like a vine with outdoor exploration. And although she was alone in the living out of that particular autumn afternoon, her retelling guides you like a friend taking your hand and pointing out the details you might otherwise miss. Her specific quest for fresh lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) ended in her being foiled by the late season, yet she was rewarded with a different find earthier in flavor and perhaps even more precious: oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

From that poetic opening, graced by symbolism, the reader is introduced to a book structured in sections headed by the four seasons, each of which features a variety of urban plants in starring roles. Enter also the people who helped to shape the writer’s life: a conflicted, sometimes preoccupied mother; a distant, always itinerant father; a companion and kindred spirit who offers support in matters of love and letters.

There are also recipes from Ava’s kitchen that stand the test of taste. One example is Wood Sorrel Micro-Greens, a savory that can be harvested at its peak right now as her book greets the reading public.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Ava was raised in Queens and now centers herself on Staten Island, where she teaches creative writing, but all five boroughs of New York City receive attention on these pages, making this book required reading for naturalists of all shades. A large part of Eating Wildly is dedicated to various edible fungi; mycologists will certainly find ample substance and complete author-reader connection. The life of the urban honeybee is also given its due. This book is a special document of the current state of the city’s wild reported from a gifted first-person perspective and should satisfy anyone interested in the power, beauty, or flavor of plants, those self-sufficient Wildflowers of the West Village that inspire ongoing communion with the green corners of the metropolis.

– rPs 05 13 2014

Postscript: Eating Wildly is available for sale at one of my favorite independents, The Corner Bookstore, located on the southeast corner of 93rd and Madison. Here is a link to the shop’s website: http://cornerbookstorenyc.com/event/ava-chin-reads-from-her-debut-eating-wildly/

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Wave Hill

Wave Hill . . .

View From Wave Hill

View From Wave Hill

We had the pleasure to spend some quality west side time at Wave Hill in The Bronx during their Arbor Weekend at the end of April. What is Wave Hill? I’ll let their mission statement speak:

“Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Its mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.”

Wave Hill offers a complimentary hourly shuttle service from the end of the 1 Train at 242nd Street to the public gardens and back. The ride takes fewer than five minutes and leaves one at the front gate of the property. Within this expanse of preserved land reside trees, both deciduous and coniferous, flower gardens, greenhouses, an art gallery, a café, and a gift shop with adjacent restrooms. The layout is bright and spacious, with lots of flagstone and brick and wood chip trails: everything a New Yorker cramped into a studio might want from a weekend, or weekday, visit.

Wave Hill Entrance

Wave Hill Entrance

The initial view is especially breathtaking: the Hudson River Palisades; an exposed, sheer rock cliff capped by an unbroken line of trees stretching as far as one can see along the New Jersey side of the fjord. (More on this point can be found below in the Postscript)

Up close, along the margins of the grounds full of tended native and ornamental plants, one can find some of the region’s familiar wildflower stars of spring:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

Garlic Mustard (Allaria petiolata)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

And something new, too: While we waked across one of the sloping meadows near the Glyndor Gallery, we also found and photographed a first for Wildflowers of the West Village:

Whitlow Grass (Erophila verna)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

(photo taken 04 27 2014)

This member of the Brassicaceae family, the mustards, sports numerous flowers consisting of four paired white petals. The blooms rise on ruddy stems from a small basal rosette, which forms a very tight, tiny bush that is quite attractive.

We encourage anyone with an interest in flowers, trees, gardening, or landscape architecture to visit Wave Hill, and to return again and again as the seasons pass and offer more and different views of this green west end of The Bronx.

– rPs 04 28 2014

Postscript: The riverfront that gives the great view from Wave Hill is under threat from a proposed office tower on the New Jersey side. I encourage all those who wish this undeveloped land to remain in its original, natural state to visit the following website and perhaps even sign the accompanying petition to Protect The Palisades:

http://www.protectthepalisades.org/

VIEW UNDER THREAT! The Palisades in Spring

VIEW UNDER THREAT!
The Palisades in Spring

.

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Earth Day 2014

Earth Day 2014 . . .

Yellow Trout Lily In Bud. (photo taken 04 2014)

Yellow Trout Lily In Bud. (photo taken 04 2014)

Happy Earth Day 2014 from Wildflowers of the West Village!

Click on the following link to learn more about the holiday:

http://www.earthday.org/

Meanwhile, enjoy these recent photos of one of the season’s most attractive wild herbaceous plants, the Yellow Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum.

Yellow Trout Lily In Bloom. (photo taken 04 2014)

Yellow Trout Lily In Bloom. (photo taken 04 2014)

– rPs 04 22 2014

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