Posts Tagged Mugwort

The Elusive Mugwort

The Elusive Mugwort . . .

The humble, yet elusive, Common Mugwort . . . in bloom. (photo taken 10 23 2013)

The humble, yet elusive, Common Mugwort . . . in bloom. (photo taken 10 23 2013)

Ironic is the title. Common Mugwort, Atemisia vulgaris, is actually one of the most ubiquitous urban plants. Unlike its immigrant fellows the dandelion, plantain, or clover – so well known for their blooms – mugwort never appears to be in flower.

The reason for this contradiction is the simple hardship urban wildflowers must face. Park crews and construction workers cut down or pull out this plant before it can live through its full life cycle.

Four years of wildflower hunting in the West Village had passed without my finding a single mugwort specimen in flower. That search, a kind of urban naturalist’s grail quest, ended at last in late October along the West Side Highway. One small stretch of median left uncut supported a large mugwort patch crowned by numerous vertical green capitula. Modest is its flower, even underwhelming, yet it was satisfying to finally behold and photograph.

Mugwort up closer. (photo taken 10 23 2013)

Mugwort up close. (photo taken 10 23 2013)

– rPs 11 27 2013

Leave a Comment

The Urban Naturalist

The Urban Naturalist . . .

Front cover of The Urban Naturalist by Steven D. Garber. (photo taken 02 25 2010)

Most wildflower books, including field guides, emphasize the meadows and woods of parks and wilderness spaces. Examining the literature more broadly and digging deeper, books that cover general nature study sometimes cover topics closer to home. One example is The Urban Naturalist, authored by another writer with roots in New York: Steven D. Garber.

Dr. Garber was educated at Cornell, New York University, and Rutgers. He has authored numerous papers and several books during his long career in environmental science.  The Urban Naturalist was first published in 1987 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Garber was at that time a wildlife biologist for the Port Authority of New York and the region’s three major airports.  The book was reprinted in 1998 by Dover Publications, Inc. This is the edition I own and use.

Garber begins the book with an essay – “Urban Ecosystems” – that provides a valuable contribution to a less than fully understood facet of the environment. His thoughts illuminate subjects such as urban microclimates and invasive species. His prose style is informed by scientific writing and focuses on the subject matter, sans personal memoir. The chapters that follow are dedicated to different wildlife types:  Grasses and Wildflowers; Trees; Insects and Other Invertebrates; Fish; Amphibians; Reptiles; Birds; and Mammals.

The chapter on wildflowers of course interested my own research the most. Garber’s selections are logical in the context of the urban environment and include Chicory, Mugwort, Plantain, Purslane, Clover, Purple Loosetrife, and Lamb’s Quarters. Line illustrations by Jerome Lo  enhance the plant descriptions throughout.

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, one of the wildflowering plants profiled in The Urban Naturalist by Steven D. Garber. (photo taken 11 18 2010)

The book concludes with an expansive bibliography of books divided by the chapter subjects. This alone makes The Urban Naturalist an excellent resource for, you guessed it, the urban naturalist.

Back cover of The Urban Naturalist by Steven D. Garber. (photo taken 02 25 2010)

Garber, Steven D., The Urban Naturalist, Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, NY, 1998.

– rPs 02 25 2010

Comments (4)