Posts Tagged High Line

Taxicabs and The Easter Egg Effect

Taxicabs and The Easter Egg Effect . . .

Snow Drop on Sunday

Snow Drop on Sunday

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.

Taraxacum Two-Step NYC (01 2015)

Taraxacum Two-Step
NYC (01 2015)

Bright, warmer than the season’s usual early winter face: January on a Sunday afternoon remained mild.

Groundsel Epiphany NYC (01 2015)

Groundsel Epiphany
NYC (01 2015)

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.

Croci Afternoon NYC (03 2015)

Croci Afternoon
NYC (03 2015)

Spring has arrived in the western side of Manhattan.

– rPs 03 31 2015

Postscript: The Easter Egg Effect, The High Line edition –

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The Asters of Autumn

The Asters of Autumn . . .

A few New England Asters snuck into the corner of a West Village garden. (photo taken 10 17 2012)

The Aster family, Asteraceae, holds court in late summer and autumn. A variety of these little daisy faces can be found gracing fall fields, roadsides, and urban greenways with their white, blue, and purple colors.

Two attractive varieties can be seen throughout the West Village even now, in November, when most flowering plants have fallen to the frost. One is the New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, which can be identified by the leaves, which clasp the stem. The blooms also tend to be more sparse and reside more at the purple end of the spectrum than its close relative, the New York Aster.

Face First: Closeup view of an individual New England Aster. (photo taken 10 17 2012)

Known also as the Michaelmas Daisy, Symphyotrichum novi-belgii has stiff stems that hold alternate leaves. The blossoms have pointed rays with a lavender hue that surround a yellow central disk. The New York Aster tends to grow bushier as well, often forming tight thickets covered with flowers. This species is also popular as a cultivated planting. Large colonies can be found blooming in between the old rusted tracks of The High Line.

New York Asters bloom on the right side of The High Line’s tracks. (photo taken 10 23 2012)

One other colorful lining should here be mentioned: Both of these beautiful native perennials attract late pollinators, especially bees and butterflies.

A bush of New York Asters hosts a happy butterfly on The High Line. (photo taken 10 23 2012)

– rPs 11 14 2012

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High Line Cuts Back and Expands

High Line Cuts Back and Expands . . .


(photo taken 03 09 2012)


(photo taken 03 09 2012)

A sure sign of the urban spring has begun. The High Line started its annual spring cutback project. The winter song of the wind sounding through the park’s high grasses has been replaced by staff and volunteers pruning back shrubs and perennials for the new spring growing season.

Clusters of blooming Crocus vernus, now in full color, have been exposed in between the trimmed plants. The purple and white bouquets, spread randomly amongst the tans and browns of stems and trunks, can provide a lot of new still life opportunities for photographers.

As this cutback proceeds, the High Line announced its planned third expansion along the Rail Yards. This stretch around 30th Street and 10th Avenue would run east and west along a major real estate redevelopment leading to the Hudson River. The shift in orientation and new features such as a children’s area promise both challenges and rewards. A community input meeting held on Monday, March 12, in the Chelsea neighborhood took a solid first step in getting the final design right.

As for the cutback, the project plans to continue over the next month or so. Interested volunteers can visit the High Line’s “News” section for more information:

The sign says it all:

(photo taken 03 09 2012)

– rPs 03 13 2012

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The Symmetry of the Sumac

The Symmetry of the Sumac . . .

Symmetrical branches of Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra, reach up toward a gray January sky along the High Line. (photo taken 01 13 2012)

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.

The dense, upright panicles of Smooth Sumac can last throughout the winter. (photo taken 01 13 2012)

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.

"Hand" over the High Line. (photo taken 01 13 2012)

— rPs 01 13 2012

Postscript: Ava Chin’s recipe for “Wild Smooth Sumac-ade” can be found by following this link:

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Week One along the High Line, Section Two

Week One along the High Line, Section Two . . .

The opening weekend crowd packs the 20th Street gateway to the new Section Two of the High Line. (photo taken 06 11 2011)

One week ago today the High Line opened its Section Two. The new span stretches beside 10th Avenue between 20th and 30th Streets. This expansion doubles the length of the park and includes some new features such as the 23rd Street Lawn, an elevated grassy area designed for public relaxation.

Two visits have plunged me into humongous crowds that resemble market days at Union Square. The High Line may be twice as long, but it is at least ten times more popular, too. Several articles in The New York Times alone have celebrated the new opening as well as the park’s solid reputation as a crime-free zone. Today’s visitors included a crowd surrounding a cooking celebrity and a model who was posing for a fashion layout. The results of this attention already show on the park. The much vaunted lawn has been closed off due to wear from the opening week’s foot traffic.

I am of the opinion that the outdoors and parks in particular are areas designated for open space, quietude, and contemplation. The added popularity of the park is a good thing, but just now this finite space has become a bit overrun. Once the bandwagon of green celebrities and politicians has moved on, the High Line will certainly settle back into the more manageable and pleasant level of use the park has experienced since its initial opening two years ago. That will be the time for serious urban naturalists to explore this unique blend of sustainable nature within an ever-changing city environment

Unlike media attention, celebrity sightings, or sound bites from politicians, the High Line is here to stay.

Wildflowers in the foreground, the Empire State Building in the background: just one of the unique urban nature views availabe on the elevated greenway of the High Line. (photo taken 06 14 2011)

– rPs 06 14 2011

postscript: Click on the “High Line” link listed under the Blogroll to visit the Friends of the High Line website.

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The Easter Egg Effect

The Easter Egg Effect . . .

Easter Eggs: a group of Spring Crocus, Crocus vernus, emerge from the undercover on The High Line. (photo taken 03 14 2011)


The emotional appeal of wildflowers, especially those found growing in an urban setting, can to me be summed up in something I like to call “The Easter Egg Effect” – that feeling of excitement, instigated by discovery, akin to a child finding a pastel egg hidden within the grass in the backyard. I began Wildflowers of West Village just under a year ago after one such pivotal moment. I was walking with my wife on a pleasant Sunday afternoon on the first day of spring. The Hudson flowed to our right as the park on our left became bathed in the thin setting sunlight of the Equinox. My eye caught sight of a patch of pale blue Siberian squill flowering at the base of a tree. The rest of the surrounding parkscape remained primarily brown, so the presence of living color stood out even more distinctly. We headed home, feeling rejuvenated by the first visible sign of the natural world’s reawakening, and simultaneously the idea for a new nature writing project began to bloom.

This year I first felt The Easter Egg Effect on the opposite end of the Christian Lenten calendar; during its opening week, just after Ash Wednesday. I was out for a walk yet again, this time along a unique Manhattan greenway: The High Line, one of the most popular public destinations in the West Village. Once an abandoned elevated railroad spur, the former West Side Line was converted over a decade into a belt stretching from its terminus on Gansevoort Street north to West 20th Street. After opening in 2009, the response was immediate and enthusiastic. Flanked by impressive architecture like the Standard Hotel and Frank Gehry’s futuristic IAC Building, the park’s benches, art installations, and plantings attract models, rock stars, and tourists from around the globe. They can be found daily socializing as well as photographing and filming themselves, distant views of the Hudson River, and close up portraits of this unique urban green space, which also happens to be my front yard.

As a writer focused on outdoor sports and nature, I find it ironic that Fate has me residing around the corner from this premiere example of urban nature. Beyond that, the greenway provides me a quick and traffic-free route uptown. Often, to the bemusement of international tourists, I can be found carrying dress shirts and spare hangers in hand on the way to my dry cleaner on 18th Street. I like to think the sight of me going about my mundane daily business portrays me as a goodwill ambassador from the neighborhood, a reminder to visitors that regular people with daily lives – and chores – reside here, too.

So it was that during a run to the dry cleaners I caught sight of an initial sign of the impending spring: a pastel purple crocus, Crocus vernus, starting to flower beside the rust brown rails of the High Line. The blooms, still cupped and closed, even resembled colored eggs.

Crocus vernus sprouts from the repurposed railway of The High Line. (photo taken 03 14 2011)


Later in the week I found another variety, the Dutch Yellow Crocus, Crocus flavus, coloring the gardens of St. Luke in the Fields.

Dutch Yellow Crocus, Crocus flavus, blooming in the gardens of St. Luke in the Fields. (photo taken 03 13 2011)


Along the hedge line of Hudson River Park I found an entire croci community of white Crocus vernus about to flower.

A colony of white Crocus vernus about to bloom in Hudson River Park. (photo taken 02 28 2011)


While not wildflowers in the pure definition, most varieties in the Crocus genus have gone feral or become naturalized to the extent that the distinction between wild and cultivated has become blurred. The presence of their blooms in unexpected places – like an elevated railway or a corner of a vacant lot in Manhattan – appears like a shiny penny in the gutter, or a decorated egg in the backyard. Embodied in such sudden wild flowering, the joy of spring is evinced by The Easter Egg Effect.

 – rPs 03 14 2011

Postscript . . .

The High Line and Friends of the High Line maintain a website for more background information –   – and remember, if you do visit, look don’t touch. As the sign says . . .

Sign on The High Line. (photo taken 03 14 2011)

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