Earth Day 2017 . . .
Happy Earth Day 2017 from Wildflowers of the West Village . . .
— rPs 04 22 2017
Cracked: The City’s Micro-Yards . . .
Heat waves do not break, or crack. Most linger in an ebb and flow cycle of several oscillations. The chain of days bends rather than breaks and may linger for several warm weather months before an abrupt push of colder autumn air arrives and a new fall pattern takes root.
One city immigrant thrives in the late summer heat and light. This plant slips into a narrow growing place. The most minuscule of front yards, the intersection of sidewalk and foundation.
The city’s micro-yard is a distinct slit of soil, enough to conjure up a plant. The setting conveys little moisture or nutrients. Exposure, whether rain, wind, dog, or human traffic, is often constant.
Purslane is one New York resident that resists and emerges with an appearance of pride. Sprouts in snippets may form a single community chain if left to alone to grow. Many such gatherings follow the intersection of where we live meets where we walk. Manhattan’s entire west side hosts Portulaca oleracea, the purslane much mentioned as cuisine.
Central Asia was the more arid land from which this immigrant annual arrived. The semiarid conditions of its origin explain how thin spots of loose soil found among rocks finds a parallel in the big city crack in the masonry.
“(I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement” . . . a song by Duran Duran, a spot where just enough water supports this plant replete with interior moisture. The red stems and teardrop uniform green leaves, fleshy and juiced. A passing glance gives one reminiscences of Grandma’s household jade plant in miniature.
Urban Forager, author Ava Chin, knows from her own experience what has sprouted from Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. I’m sure Queens and The Bronx sustains wild specimens, too. She appreciates the humor in a turn of phrase. One as good as a “From Sidewalk Cracks, a Side Dish” indeed also reinforces the concept of the crack, the often occurring ultimate micro-yard that supports a harvestable, therefore worthy, immigrant wild plant.
The analogy can be extended, if one likes such pursuits.
Ava’s book, Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal, has just been released in paperback. Purslane thrives within its pages as it can be a true vegetable, rightful status for the purslane, which can add viscosity and a tang reminiscent of spinach to a variety of dishes.
Allusion to “Reminiscence” three times in one stretch of prose hints the time must be shifting to the one that often conveys life in that way. Autumn is near, but not quite here. People strive. Wildflowers bloom.
– rPs 09 12-13 2016
Postscript: Read Ava Chin’s recipe for purslane for The New York Times: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/10/urban-forager-from-sidewalk-cracks-a-side-dish/comment-page-1/?_r=0
Veterans . . .
Wildflowers, those exposed to so much stress in urban environments, may be presumed to have wrapped up blooming activity by November. Not so along the western edge of Manhattan. Cool wet days under breezy white sky have in succession invigorated lawns and edges alike on the island of Manhattan. The lush green beds support a casserole of multicolored leaves.
The gold of the Ginkgo and Weeping Willow complement the burnt orange of the Sugar Maple, the evergreen and yellow variations of the Norway Maple. The flutter of the individual Black Locust, tiny in comparison to that of the London Plane Tree and Black Oak, dry leaves when stiff the size of a desert plate.
My favorites of the blooming foliage include the fiery tones of the American Sumac, the intricate stylish spades of the living fossil, the Tulip Tree, and the full spectrum splendor of the Liquid Amber, the Sweetgum.
Standing, blooming in their way on the trunks of such trees, one can find lichen in full vigor:
Mushrooms like the Amanita reside in the leaf litter:
Wildflowers, the second wind of sorts, numerous veterans, though perhaps plain or small or scattered, bloom now in great variety and number. Goldenrod, Galinsoga, Lady’s Thumb, and the Dandelion all still flower here and there. Others encountered during a run in the park may include:
Chicory, Chicorium intybus
Mallow, Marva parviflora
Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
White Snakeroot, Agaratina altissima
November Rain, a fine song title, and a pillar source of life for a strong stand of West Village wildflower veterans.
– rPs 11 11 2015
Summer, Solanum . . .
New York City wakes to the light of August and the news of fifty days and counting when temperatures have held at 80 degree Fahrenheit or more.
Humidity feeds the air and makes the air felt. The act of breathing becomes an even damper labor requiring calories if on a run to survey wildflowers along Manhattan’s banks of the Hudson River.
Inland, the islands holds tree pits colonized like a kind of microcosm of monoculture. Within squares sprout Galinsoga, Lady’s Thumb, Yellow Sow Thistle, and Marestail.
Not so much the Asiatic Dayflower. Commelina cummunis, which appreciates seasons of high water and a more modest light.
This season being dry, and hot, one of the most common sights are of tiny black tomatoes hanging in sparse clumps from vigorous stems and ovate green leaves supporting also tiny flowers that resemble sunnyside eggs shaped into five petals arranged as a star.
Solanum nigrum, the Nightshade. August in the Nightshade, or . . .
. . . a Summer, Solanum, with some others remains the steady news of the day.
– rPs 08 26 2015
Taxicabs and The Easter Egg Effect . . .
Wildflower City Firsts With Full Effect
A colony of dandelions as yellow as taxicabs scattered themselves on a browned hillside. Taxicabs, ironic in the color meets Latin cadence of Taraxacum, the official. Taraxacum Taxicabs.
And groundsel, another daisy Asteraceae and an active commuter, stood firm and flush in full yellow bloom.
Bright, warmer than the season’s usual early winter face: January on a Sunday afternoon remained mild.
A foot of snow covered the scene one week later. A sky grey like actual polished lead hung the air heavy with damp deep cold riding a wind that scoured.
Two and a half months of brown, white, and blue with an emphasis on the white has taken another form in the sustained full sun of March. A very few Galanthus nivalis have appeared. Cautious egg white snowdrop heads shaped like ornamental streetlamps peer from leaf litter soaked with snow melt. Puddles in undeveloped areas, lots and parks, have formed shallow ponds of perhaps a quarter acre in surface area up to one foot in depth.
And on Palm Sunday, Passover and Easter just days away, egg yolk yellow spoke an internal smile set in eyes of palest purple: the croci, feral for the most part in fact. City spots here and there overnight decorated with wild plant life: a park corner, a tree pit, grassy curbsides. The random and sparse spread produced The Easter Egg Effect in my own wildflower city hikes set on random and at the speed of meditation.
Spring has arrived in the western side of Manhattan.
– rPs 03 31 2015
Postscript: The Easter Egg Effect, The High Line edition –