American for French . . .
A NYC daily newspaper headline stated the fact:AGAIN. Here today this American’s Red, White, and Blue supports the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
— rPs 07 15 2016
An “Irish Spring” . . .
I discovered a pot of wildflower gold on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Surrounding the base of a tree beside the bike path along the West Side Highway, I found an Irish spring mix of Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), white Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), and blue Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica), blooming together.
The trees are bare, though budding; the ground is spongy, beginning to turn verdant. In this environment, the diminutive wildflowers of the early season are a refreshing sign of life renewing on the cusp of spring.
Breathe deeply . . .
– rPs 03 17 2012
More February Wildflowers . . .
I thought I would take advantage of Leap Day 2012 to squeeze in one more post for the month of February. The past four weeks have remained damp and cool, rather than cold, making the green spaces of the West Village resemble tundra. The park grass is spongy, close cropped, yet green, and along the edges a variety of hardy wildflower species can be found, low to the ground, in bloom . . .
Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum)
Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
Feral Croci (Crocus vernus)
And, in my own courtyard, a few Common Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
– rPs 02 29 2012
The Symmetry of the Sumac . . .
A gray windy day in January is one of the few times one can find solitude on the High Line. During a walk there this week, I found time to watch and to listen to this outdoor space on its own, without the hum and hover of humanity.
I perceived that there must be as many varieties of brown in January as there are green in June. The wind sounding through the dry stalks and branches contained as many subtle tones as the murmur of multiple conversations. What stood out the most to me was found in the basic forms of the plants. The skeleton, the architecture, of a flower, shrub, or tree is delineated at this time of year. One of the most impressive examples of such naked form can be seen in the Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra.
A native shrub family, Anacardiaceae, found throughout the eastern United States, the sumacs are known more for their summer and autumn dress: the feathery, serrated, compound leaves that turn crimson in October. The Smooth Sumac commonly forms colonies from its root system, often along roads and railways, making its appearance on the High Line both appropriate as well as aesthetically pleasing.
The Smooth Sumac is also one of the most distinctive flowering trees. The large upright panicles are the color of rich Chianti. These clusters of drupes (seeded fruits) are edible, and can be picked and soaked in cool water to make a refreshing sumac-ade. One recipe for “Wild Smooth Sumac-ade” was described by the Staten Island nature writer Ava Chin in her “Urban Forager” column for The New York Times.
A group of panicles silhouetted against the leaden sky caught my eye, gave me inspiration and a subject for a winter wildflower. I paused in the wind, which was making whitecaps on the steel-colored Hudson in the background, and there I contemplated the forms of the Smooth Sumac branches. I was delighted by the symmetry of the tips, which spread like the pointed fingers of an open hand. I noticed also that the branches did not just spread opposite and parallel, like arms and hands. The fingered projections themselves were twisted and bent in the exact same manner as well.
The Classical orders of architecture, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian being basic examples, were derived by the Greeks and Romans from organic forms. The Smooth Sumac, in winter, reminded me that humanity with its mathematics does not possess a monopoly on graceful, even symmetrical, functional form.
Fodder for natural philosophical thought as the annual and perennial wildflowers hibernate.
— rPs 01 13 2012
Postscript: Ava Chin’s recipe for “Wild Smooth Sumac-ade” can be found by following this link:
Red, White, and Blooms . . .
Today is the Fourth of July, 2011: Independence Day; the 235th birthday of the United States of America. Wildflowers of the West Village would like to celebrate the holiday with three local flowers, each sporting one of the nation’s three patriotic primary colors.
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense)
Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)
– rPs 07 04 2011