Brown, White, and Blue

Brown, White, and Blue . . .

Brown, White, and Blue

Brown, White, and Blue

Brown, white, and blue fills out the flag of the season marked by low light and temperatures. Late autumn, the winter proper, and early spring together sing in a harmony of three colors on clear bright days.

American Pokeweed stands shriveled and tan with a few blackened clusters of berries still in grip.

American Pokeweed 12 12 2014

American Pokeweed
12 12 2014

Asters of several varieties have browned and gone to seed in heads as white as frost.

Asters of New York 12 12 2014

Asters of New York
12 12 2014

Snow, a bit, marks the edges. December, a proper cold one in New York City, can still give the hiker or cross country runner gifts of discovery as long as fans of wildflowers respect and appreciate the full life cycle of urban species.

December: Two Species Together

December: Two Species Together

– rPs 12 12 2014

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November Libation

November Libation . . .

New York Aster

New York Aster

Shadows long across a lawn otherwise flooded with sun lead to a lone New York Aster in bloom. Light reflected off leaves shines as bright as wine. Foliage, served like oven-browned vegetables to the eye, rustles below a monochrome blue sky. November in Manhattan can approach perfection on a clear day.

Flowers now reflect white for most sighted. Symphyotrichum novi-belgii, the New York Aster’s light purple, makes an exception as does the egg yolk of the Solanum, varieties of Nightshade and Horse Nettle. Tiny nightshade plants often bloom around the uncut rings of turf that surround park trees. Small size may be due to in part to oak tree tannins in the soil.

Nightshade & Oak Leaf

Nightshade & Oak Leaf

Richer lawns hold patches of mature pink Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria peersicaria, and the tiny daisy faces of Galinsoga parviflora, Galinsoga.

Lady's Thumb (or Heartweed)

Lady’s Thumb (or Heartweed)

Galinsoga parviflora

Galinsoga parviflora

Seeds set to parachute from tiny globes blow in the walkway edges as do stands of Ageratina altissima, White Snakeroot. The flower heads of this Asteraceae resemble baby balls of yarn when viewed through lenses of enhanced imagination. Rational can turn Dionysian at the sight behind the now relaxed leaves of American Pokeweed. Phytolacca americana stems, exposed, convey the color of Pinot Noir.

Gone to Seed

Gone to Seed

White Snakeroot

White Snakeroot

Phytolacca americana

Phytolacca americana

Here’s a toast to November in Manhattan.

– rPs 11 12 2014

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Wildflowers of Waikiki

Wildflowers of Waikiki . . .

Frangipani blossom (Plumeria) set in the Hawaiian Airlines logo

Frangipani blossom (Plumeria) set in the Hawaiian Airlines logo

Hawaii begins borne by flowers. “Aloha” is the aroma and sight of flowers around necks, pinned behind ears, hanging from trees. Gardens, lawns, and copses all in bloom as a collective fragrance carries on a mild warm breath off Pacific seawater.

Here are some views from an October 2014 visit to O’ahu . . .

Waikiki 10 2014

Hawaii 2 10 2014

Hawaii 3 102014

Hawaii 4 10 2014

Hawaii 5 10 2014

Paradise Close . . .

Bird of Paradise 10 2014

– rPs 10 31 2014

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Still Life Set in a Cityscape

Still Life Set in a Cityscape . . .

Butter & Eggs by the Stump

Butter & Eggs by the Stump

The City Still Life, continued: Ideas or Ideals?

October brings a new, almost kinetic view: warmer colors spread in the foreground as the backdrop of sky, like the temperature, reflects colder hues. Bright, or subdued, autumn’s more visible variety can shift one’s attention and shape it toward color composition. Hikes along a river lined by trees showing ever less chlorophyll have fueled thinkers too numerous to list anywhere but in some form of comprehensive Encyclopedia Autumnus.

One subject: The City Still Life, con Flores, im Herbst (“with flowers, in Autumn”) often pops up besides the trees that can no longer leaf. The stump, the rooted gravestone of a neighborhood tree, low to the ground, overlooked, left alone, or still in line to be removed, centers a wild space that may be encircled by plantains beaded by rain, nightshades gathered in miniature copses, or scatterings of less dispersed species:

Chicory, Chicorium intybus

Chicory in October

Chicory in October

Mallow, Malva neglecta

Mallow in October

Mallow in October

Yellow Toadflax (Butter & Eggs), Linaria vulgaris

Yellow Toadflax in October

Yellow Toadflax in October

Conscious tree cutting and removal always depresses me, more for the fact the tree cannot be left to compost where it comes to lay. A green space more sustained by itself by letting it be would better reflect its organic natural history. Spaces may be shaped, that is understandable. May it also be comprehended that a city park curated as a rotating clean slate may not be ideal when applied in a universal, as in monolithic, manner? Stumps add character and the distinctive wild space equivalent of a still life set in a greater landscape, or cityscape.

– rPs 10 07 2014

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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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