Happy (1st) Anniversary . . .
A carpet of Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) soaks up the afternoon sun in Hudson River Park. (photo taken 03 20 2011)
One year ago today, on March 22, 2010, I wrote:
“Welcome to Wildflowers of the West Village . . .
. . . where nature and the city intersect . . . in New York City.”
So began my first foray into the blogosphere. Thirty-four posts, and nearly 2,500 visitors later, I have enjoyed following a trail of discovery and documentation that has introduced me to over thirty varieties of native and immigrant wildflower species, each one residing somewhere within this Manhattan neighborhood. The search for these plants has been a pleasure and, as I have found with the arrival of the new spring, ongoing. Recently I discovered several more early-season wildflowers that I either overlooked or missed outright last year, which promises to make this second season of investigation equally as active. The fun has just begun.
To celebrate, in part, my wife and I took a Sunday stroll along the Hudson River Park waterfront. We retraced the path we took last year that lead me to the spot of initial inspiration: a young oak tree that had blue Siberian squill blooming around its base. The sunlight was much stronger than last year, but we found the same tree along with the same perennial companion. I took a photo from roughly the same position:
The view that inspired Wildflowers of the West Village: one year later. (photo taken 03 20 2011)
Nearby, I found a grassy hummock carpeted with Red Deadnettle, Lamium purpureum, in full bloom. This member of the mint family, a relative of Henbit, created a sun-bathed scene as pretty as any image of the English (or Catskill) countryside. The view provided me with another example of my basic philosophy regarding such plants:
“Wildflowers, NOT Weeds”
The general opinion surrounding the subject of native versus invasive plants is quite lopsided. The call for the complete extirpation of invasive plants is next to unanimous. My dissenting minority view is that first, invasives should be respectfully referred to as immigrants, as these plants are to this country’s flora what all but native Americans are to North America’s human inhabitants. Then there is the Quixotic futility inherent in an attempt to remove foreign species – many of which have a cosmopolitan distribution - from the American scene. I shall willingly support and happily assist all organized efforts to restore native plant species to park lands and undeveloped wildlife habitats, but in tight urban areas, especially, I will welcome the presence of any blooming thing. Complete eradication from our nation’s borders is impossible from a practical standpoint, so invasive species are here to stay, meaning they have, by default, become naturalized. They all are now, going forward, American natives. Any blooming wild plant can be an asset (a protection against soil erosion, for example) and an object of beauty (especially in an urban environment starved for green space). RED clover, WHITE bindweed, and BLUE Asiatic dayflower blooming in an AMERICAN city where tree pit and vacant lot provide the nature for a neighborhood is better than dead space filled with miscarded (my word for improperly discarded) plastic bags and bottles.
My opinion is that of a distinct minority, but what else could one expect from an author who is best known for writing about fly fishing in urban settings? Long focused on the art of the city fish story, I found metropolitan wildflowers to be a natural offshoot of my quest to develop further as an urban(e) nature writer. Many of the narrative passages in my two collections of fly fishing essays, Philadelphia on the Fly and Small Fry: The Lure of the Little feature passing descriptions of wildflowers. Marsh Marigold, Chicory, and Queen Anne’s Lace are so prevalent along ponds and streams that I would have been remiss had I not made mention of their presence on the scene. Only after I began to mull over subjects for my third book did I consider wildflowers as a central theme. The idea quickly bloomed into a serious project and, ironically, it was not because of the writing. I have included original line drawings of fly patterns in my first two books and botanical illustration has been one of my lifelong interests. The concept to write about what I love to contemplate, photograph, and draw made for one of those light bulb moments. The result of that yearling idea is the illustrated manuscript-in-the-making presented here before you.
Happy (1st) Anniversary, Wildflowers of the West Village . . .
– rPs 03 22 2011
Postscript . . .
You can view the original photo of the tree that inspired Wildflowers of the West Village here: