Archive for Wildflower Books

Slanted December Sunset Light

Slanted December Sunset Light . . .

Green Side of The Path (NYC 12 2015)

Green Side of the Path
(NYC 12 2015)

Why the sudden inclusion of Poetry to Wildflowers of the West Village? The answer can be traced back five years and some months to an “Ode to Onion Grass” that served my intent in art history, an extended appreciation of Albrecht Dürer.

Most of my poems shared at Wildflowers of the West Village have been subtitled “for insert historical figure’s name here.” Each strives to serve as a summation of sorts. Their existential whole, their individual presence, how has it remained felt in the accompaniment of my own one life? The poems answer.

How my educations, my ethics, my politics, my essential tastes in entertainment and recreation have been directed somewhat can be referenced by their keyword names in their broad honor.

Antecedents. Progenitors. Kin.

The cadence of my rhetoric,
Clear enough to my mind,
Best to share my best,
Universally, no gratuity.

A poem lives by readers, not sales. Sails in my sights have been those boats engaging the Hudson tidal stream. I see them when running the river paths. Running from something? No, on my feet, I am not. My pace may rather be equated to running for something, toward something, pushing for sustained strength, pausing, still, to watch a small town arrangement of wildflowers greet the west wind and the slanted December sunset light.

Green almost Loden bathed in Gold.

– rPs 12 09 2015

Postcript: “Green Side of the Path” photo starring Artemisia, Persicaria, Solanum, Malva, and Galinsoga.

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14 novembre, 2015

14 novembre, 2015 . . .

pour Albert Camus

War in Europe, again.
How ironic
And how parallel

To continental
Historical cycles
This conflict has arisen

To Whenever,
To Wherever,
Perpetual war cataclysm.

We people are a species
Stuck rocking
On our own rodent wheel,

Rock of our own

— ron P. swegman
— 14 novembre, 2015

Enduring November Rain  (NYC 11 2015)

Enduring November Rain
(NYC 11 2015)

— rPs 11 14 2015

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Bloomsday 2015

Bloomsday 2015 . . .

Catalpa speciosa (Bloomsday 2015)

Catalpa speciosa
(Bloomsday 2015)

“Under the upswelling tide he saw the writhing weeds lift languidly and sway reluctant arms, hising up their petticoats, in whispering water swaying and upturning coy silver fronds. Day by day: night by night: lifted, flooded and let fall. Lord, they are weary: and, whispered to, they sigh.”

– Excerpt from “Episode 3 – Proteus” of Ulysses by James Joyce

Re-Joyce. Today is Bloomsday.

– rPs 06 16 2015

Postscript: I again refer to my definitive narrative on the significance of Bloomsday to Wildflowers of the West Village: “Bloomsday”

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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:

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A Literary Wildflower

A Literary Wildflower . . .

The Scarlet Pimpernel opens only on sunny days. (photo by Maryann Amici 08 04 2013)

The Scarlet Pimpernel opens only on sunny days. (photo by Maryann Amici 08 04 2013)

My desire to share an enthusiasm for Manhattan’s wildflowers hit home in a delightful way in recent weeks.

The story began, as it often does, with a walk. My wife and I were enjoying a Sunday afternoon outing. We had set out to enjoy the sunshine and unseasonably cool air after seeing a film in Battery Park City. The bonus appeared in Hudson River Park when we found a tiny creeping plant flowering in a color quite unlike the solid white, yellow, or pink I usually see in the urban field. The pointed petals of this example held a hue more like smoked salmon with a distinctly purple center.

When we got home, I began to search through resources for a positive identification. One detail I did note was that the leaves, stems, and general spreading appearance of the plant resembled Common Chickweed.

I had been at work less than five minutes when, from the other side of the room, Maryann announced: “Found it!”

Indeed she had, by using some of the same search terms and comparisons I have illustrated in past posts. My wife, I have discovered, has been an attentive reader. She has honed her own skills and has done so, at least in small part, by reading Wildflowers of the West Village.

The flower we found turned out to be one that has a broader cross-cultural appeal, having given its name to a famous piece of literature –

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Anagallis arvensis is a European immigrant closely related to Common Chickweed; a fact that further satisfied my own little ego, as I had made that connection on my own before reading an authoritative resource, in this case the comprehensive database of The Connecticut Botanical Society, which can be found by following this link:

I must admit here that I had never heretofore known Scarlet Pimpernel, the wildflower, had established itself in North America. I knew of the name, as most people do, by way of the famous novel of the French Revolution authored by Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orczi.

We were fortunate to come across this little literary flower when we did, The Scarlet Pimpernel blooms in full only on sunny days. Overcast weather and evening compels this plant’s petals to fold up. Had that been the case, we might have missed it entirely, or overlooked it as just another example of Common Chickweed.

This leads me to relate another lesson I have learned, and one I hope to share: students and lovers of nature must carpe diem when a new wildflower is found. Wild plants in urban environments are especially subject to the whims of groundskeepers, vehicles, or in this case, their own unique habits.

The face of the Scarlet Pimpernel. (photo taken 08 04 2013)

The face of the Scarlet Pimpernel. (photo taken 08 04 2013)

— rPs 08 28 2013

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Bloomsday 2013

Bloomsday 2013 . . .

Common Mullein begins to show beside the Corporal John A. Seravalli playground on Horatio Street. (photo taken 06 16 2013)

Common Mullein begins to show beside the Corporal John A. Seravalli playground on Horatio Street. (photo taken 06 16 2013)

A lot of rain has fallen on NYC, nearly 20 inches since the middle of May. The green lining is a bloom as rich as one in Dublin.

There are a multitude of wildflowers at their peak as a result of the rain. One is the massive Common Mullein photographed above on this Bloomsday.

Speaking of which . . . I have a new short story titled “Bloomsday” in the new issue 4.4 of The Flyfish Journal. There is a thrill in this, having fused a literary favorite with my love of the outdoors. The magazine is on newstands now. Perhaps you, too, can enjoy my latest attempt at pairing words with wildflowers.

rPs 06 16 2013

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A Reader Responds

A Reader Responds . . .

Front cover of The Urban Naturalist by Steven D. Garber

I reviewed a book, The Urban Naturalist by Steven D. Garber, in February of this year. This week, I received a letter from a reader (as I occasionally do), but this time the author was the author. Dr. Garber went in depth to describe the lasting impact of his pioneering book, which provided some points of interest to me and perhaps other readers of Wildflowers of the West Village. Here is his feedback in his own words . . .

*** * ***

From: Steven D. Garber, MBA & PhD
Worldwide Ecology
P.O. Box 3502
Stamford, CT 06905

This is almost the 25th anniversary of ‘The Urban Naturalist’ a groundbreaking book about urban ecosystems, and especially about New York City’s ecosystem. I thought you might be interested in more background.
Not too long ago I read an article in the New York Times that said High Line happened when instead of tearing down “the elevated freight tracks that cut through the West Side of Manhattan,” they were preserved and turned into a park.
Here’s how the High Line started. In hundreds of speeches, interviews and articles I took every opportunity to get the idea out there, that that old highway could and should be turned into a park. For this to happen, NYC couldn’t tear the old highway down. When I couldn’t get Mayor Koch to support the idea, I persuaded the next mayoral candidate David Dinkins, not to tear it down and to support the idea of a park there in exchange for support the support that I delivered him with the endorsement of New York City’s Sierra Club.
After Dinkins, I continued working with mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani. I wrote Giuliani’s environmental platform and got him to support the idea. He said all the right things, but did little more than stop plans to tear the elevated Westside Highway down. He was swayed by the developers who wanted to build on that land. I spoke with Donald Trump and convinced him how important it was to make the shoreline he owned on Manhattan’s West Side accessible to the City.
After Mayor Giuliani was replaced, Mayor Michael Bloomberg allowed the idea to finally take hold, money was allocated, and the park became official. The New York Times said this park survived “so many moneyed interests [that] were united against saving the elevated freight tracks,” and finally what I modestly admit was a brilliant idea, after years of fighting, this vision came into fruition.
In front of cameras and microphones, Mayor Bloomberg has said, “preserving the High Line [elevated Westside Highway Park] as a public park revitalized a swath of the city and generated $2 billion in private investment surrounding the park. The mayor pointed to the deluxe apartment buildings whose glass walls press up against the High Line and the hundreds of art galleries, restaurants and boutiques it overlooks.”
“All of that commerce more than makes up for the $115 million the city has spent on the park and the deals it has made to encourage developers to build along the High Line without blocking out the sun, Mr. Bloomberg said. On top of the 8,000 construction jobs those projects required, the redevelopment has added about 12,000 jobs in the area, the mayor said.”
“Indeed, what started out as a community-based campaign to convert an eyesore into an asset evolved into one of the most successful economic-development projects of the mayor’s nine years in office.”
Robert Hammond, said he thought the park “would be good for the local economy” but “we had no idea that it would happen this fast.” To Mr. Hammond, it seemed like the park happened fast. For me, it took decades to make this park happen and I see no reason to be shy about this, since the park would never have happened without my vision, my work, and my behind the scenes politicking.
What I started is hailed as brilliant and visionary. Here’s proof I was there right from the start.
In 1987, Marion Belcher wrote an article in the Clinton Community Press about my work. This was when the concept of urban ecology did not exist. People thought ecological processes only happened in the wild. That places where people lived didn’t really count. Now, books are written about urban ecology, entire journals are devoted to urban ecology, PhD programs, university departments, and the list goes on and on.
Back then urban ecology was a non-sequitur. Even biologists laughed at what I was writing. But time proved me right.
Ms. Belcher wrote: “The species is rare: an urban ecologist. It seems a contradiction in terms. Steven Garber… is not only an urban ecologist, but also the author of ‘The Urban Naturalist,’ which is receiving rave reviews and has rapidly become a best-selling science edition. Garber has written a wonderful and casual book about plants and animals [and] ‘The Urban Naturalist’ did indeed delight this reader and continues to do so.”
“The natural place to meet Mr. Garber was on his own turf: out-of-doors. ‘Do you want to go to Central Park or somewhere real?’, came Garber’s crisp response. We didn’t have to go far, and somewhere real turned out to be the unused, elevated section of the West Side Highway… Once there, as if by magic, we seemed suddenly transported far from the city. The din of traffic is silenced by the wind off the Hudson. Seagulls glide past where nature has taken over the macadam and cobblestones that man chose to abandon. It is a tranquil, beautiful spot… where one can partake of a view which encompasses Midtown [and] the Hudson as far north as the George Washington Bridge.”
“Garber is the perfect guide to point out the astonishing variety of plant life thriving there. Cottonwood trees have seeded in along the crevices on the side of the old highway. A quaking aspen has taken root as well. ‘We think of quaking aspen as only growing in the Rocky Mountains, but it is also common throughout the Northeast and Canada,’ states Garber. Seaside goldenrod flourishes and is now blooming, as is thoroughwort, a tall bushy plant covered with silvery white blossoms. Asters, evening primrose, mosses… Lofty phragmites have sprouted and other edible species such as lady’s thumb and lamb’s quarters. The list goes on.”
This area “has never had anything approaching a major park. Mr. Garber wants to see this abandoned highway turned into one. As a long time resident of the community, as well as a biologist with a keen eye for aesthetics, he sees tremendous potential for enhancing the natural environment. This elevated highway could return some of the coastline’s lost beauty if it were made into a park or promenade.”
Mr. Garber explains, “When Central Park was in the planning stages, developers fought the concept. They viewed all of Manhattan Island as a park which at the time was surrounded by wooden piers, salt marshes and inlets. Since that time the coastline has gradually been ruined. The residents of [Manhattan who] live right on the Hudson… can’t enjoy it.”
“‘The New York City Planning Commission wants to revitalize the West Side,’ poses Mr. Garber. ‘This neglected stretch of highway is perfect for a promenade. With a minimal investment we could create a resource for all of New York City. This promenade could extend… all the way to Riverside Park, via Donald Trump’s stretch of [then still] undeveloped breachfront property. For this to happen the Mayor, the Parks Commissioner, the Planning Commission, Donald Trump, and the community would all have to reach some accord.’ Mr. Garber pauses to take in the view. ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful.’”
“In ‘The Urban Naturalist’ Mr. Garber writes, ‘Just as oceans and forests and prairies are natural environments, cities and suburbs are also natural. We city inhabitants are animals who affect our surroundings like any other creature, however most creatures do not destroy their environment. Economic principles alone are not enough. To revitalize the quality of an urban ecosystem, it is imperative that we work with natural processes and ecological principles.’”
“Heading home, I feel like I spent the afternoon in the country, though I never left the… area; and I have a better appreciation for what Steve Garber means by ‘somewhere real.’ To quote Henry Stern, our [then] Parks Commissioner, from his forward to ‘The Urban Naturalist,’ ‘Preserving and improving our wild areas in New York City will provide an uplift for all of us. We’ve been neglecting the outdoor aspects of our sustenance. Without nature we are deprived–and New Yorkers don’t like being deprived of anything’” (Marion Belcher. Clinton’s Urban Naturalist. Clinton Community Press. Pages 3 and 5).
I’m glad I’ve devoted my life to helping the natural world and to showing how nature is changing. It’s important to teach and preserve the history of nature.

Steven D. Garber, PhD

*** * ***

It is a good feeling to know one’s blog is reaching its target audience, even better when one of its subjects takes the time to reply in depth. For more information regarding The Urban Naturalist, read the original post by following this link:

– rPs 11 19 2011

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