September’s Best

September’s Best . . .

Composition in Pink and Blue (Smartweed and Asiatic Dayflower)

Composition in Pink and Blue
(Smartweed and Asiatic Dayflower)

The City Still Life

New school years, new sporting seasons, new beginnings all commence as the summer season comes to an end. September, always a pretty time of year, often full of optimism, perhaps these qualities explain why this period, at least in the moment, moves along fast enough to earn the term: fleeting.

The city sprints at the electric pace. Nature, reflected in every tree, pigeon, and squirrel in the urban arena, offers a chance to pause and look and, sure, smell the flowers. The scale will be smaller. Built up areas do not offer much in terms of broad natural landscapes, so a painter’s eye must focus more on the smaller canvas. The untended flower pot, the tree pit, the unpaved edge of a parking lot supports the depth and diversity, native and immigrant alike.

Wildflowers, having enjoyed the majority of the growing season, continue to form random still life arrangements of multiple species in combination even if the sweet pastels of spring may have turned more weathered and tangy. The mid-Atlantic region tends to dry out at the end of the summer except when a hurricane passes through every few years. The sporadic showers that do fall provide temporary refreshment that rejuvenates the color and vigor of the blooming plant. A walk in the rain, then, offers a reflective opportunity to see the best September has to offer.

Nightshade in the Rain

Nightshade in the Rain

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Jewelweed 09 2014

New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)

New York Ironweed 09 2014

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Pickerelweed 09 2014

– rPs 09 17 2014

Postscript: This is the 100th post on this blog! Thanks for visiting . . .

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Wave Hill Revisited

Wave Hill Revisited . . .

Wave Hill in Summer (photo taken 08 24 2014)

Wave Hill in Summer
(photo taken 08 24 2014)

Each season shares its quality of being in expression through plant life. Any green space reacts to and evolves over a temperate calendar year. Flower colors vary, as does the scale, texture, and even shape of this or that plant’s leaf or stem.

Wave Hill in the Bronx sets just such a scene for close looks at cultivated plant life in process. There are 28 acres in The Bronx covered by a flowered pattern as if a giant picnic basket blanket has been spread, supported by bedrock bluffs, summer green, looking over a gorge bottomed by a variegated aquamarine river, its surface roughened by strong currents.

Beyond the artful gardens soft wildflower edges do have a place here. Plant patches now offer a sharper, drier tone of color with some lingering favorites from earlier in the summer: the yolk yellow and china blue Asiatic Dayflower and Lady’s Thumb, its flowered head not unlike an elongated pink mulberry, stem uptight.

Here are a few Wave Hill wildflowers in bloom this August:

American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

American Pokeweed 08 2014

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)

Asiatic Dayflower 08 2014

Common Mullien (Verbascum thapsus)

Common Mullein 08 2014

Goldenrod (genus Solidago)

Goldenrod 08 2014

Marestail (Conyza Canadensis)

Marestail 08 2014

White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)

White Snakeroot 08 2014

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) and Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) were also spotted on a bright and dry Sunday afternoon. Such variety brings new views every time one revisits Wave Hill, another must destination for the wildflowers of the west of New York City.

Wave Hill Entrance (photo taken 08 24 2014)

Wave Hill Entrance
(photo taken 08 24 2014)

– rPs 08 26 2014)

Postscript: Wave Hill’s website http://www.wavehill.org/

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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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