Walking from my bus stop to work in the morning takes me across Broadway in Downtown Manhattan, the site of some celebration or other yesterday morning. Still this morning, littering the sidewalks, and especially the gutters, was “ticker tape”. Of course, there are no tickers any more – it’s all electronic. So this was all long, thin shreds of paper, individually unrecognizable in its drifts.
And in that moment, crossing Broadway, walking in to work, I was taken back 18 years.
The gutters were thick with shreds of paper, and ash, for weeks and months after 9/11. There was so much of it, it took that long for all of it to finally be washed away.
The gray ash was the last to go. In sheltered spots, it lingered for years. Even if you didn’t want to know, certainly not think about it, you knew what it was.
Living and working in downtown after 9/11 was being in a crematorium. Every couple of years, you might hear about finding “remains”. This is what they’re talking about: some shards or shreds left behind, sheltered until uncovered by demolition or restoration of the ever-changing skin of the city.
And so did yesterday’s remains, of a celebration, remind me of those weeks and months a lifetime ago. I wondered how few of those celebrating would understand the connection. How few around me had the same association.
CORRECTION 2014-07-27: ID’d by William H. Taft on BugGuide as a male S. exitiosa, not S. fatifera, Arrowwood Borer, as I thought.
A lifer for me. I never even knew such a thing existed.
Synanthedon exitiosa, Peachtree Borer/Clearwing Moth, male, on Pycnanthemum muticum, Clustered Mountain Mint, in my garden yesterday afternoon.
I was showing a visitor all the pollinator activity on the Pycnanthemum. I identified 8 different bee species in less than a minute. Then I saw … THAT.
In my peripheral vision I thought it might be a wasp from the general shape and glossiness. Once I focussed on it, I recognized it as a moth.
How did I get “moth” from that?!
Body shape: It doesn’t have any narrowing along the body, which wasps and bees have.
Eyes: Large round eyes on the sides of the head, unlike the “wraparounds” of bees and wasps.
Antenna: They just looked “mothy” to me.
It was nectaring on Pycnanthemum muticum, Clustered Mountain Mint, in my garden. This patch of Pycnanthemum is just a few feet from the large Viburnum dentatum, Arrowwood, in my garden.
I’ve seen other Clearwing Moths, Sesiidae, so that gave me something to search on. The slender body was something I’d never seen before. Comparing with other images of Clearwing Moths, I was able to narrow it down to the genus Synanthedon. Then I used BugGuide and other authoritative sources to compare the coloration of the body and legs, and the markings on the wings, to key it out to species.
2014-07-24: But my original specific identification was incorrect! William H. Taft commented on one of my photos (the first in this blog post) on BugGuide that the amber color of the wings is a key to distinguishing S. exitiosa from S. fatifera. The BugGuide species page notes the yellow bands of “hairs” at the joints between the body segments. But the comparison species are other Peachtree Borers, not Arrowwood Borer, so I missed the comparison.
Looking at other photos of male Peachtree Borers, they look more like my find than Arrowwood Borer. Markings on the wings appear to be variable, not as diagnostic as I’d assumed. This is a lesson for me to be more conservative in my identification, and rely more on diagnostic keys than naive visual comparisons.
Oblique shot, showing the wing markings and venation.
Another common name for this species is Arrowwood Borer. It seems likely that this adult either just emerged from my shrub, or was attracted to it. I’ll look to see if I can find any borers still in the shrub.
One of the great pleasures of gardening is observing the activity the garden invites. I can lay out the welcome mat, and set the table, but the guests decide whether or not the invitation is enticing enough to stop by for a drink, a meal, or to raise a family. While charismatic megafauna such as birds and mammals are entertaining, the most common and endlessly diverse visitors are insects.
The Hymenoptera includes bees, wasps, and ants. Although my garden also provides amply for ants, we’ll stick with the bees and wasps today. Following are some of the few portaits I’ve been able to capture of the many visitors to my gardens. The pollinator magnet, Pycnanthemum, Mountain-mint, in the Lamiaceae, provides the stage for many of these photos. I’m always amazed at the variety and abundance of insect activity it attracts when blooming.
Multiple pollinators on Pycnanthemum
There are over 250 species of bees native to New York City alone. I’m still learning to identify just a handful of the dozens of species that frequent my garden.
My current favorite is the bejeweled Agapostemon, Jade Bee Bombus impatiens, Common Eastern Bumblebee, on Monarda fistulosa
Coelioxys, Cuckoo Bee. I think I’ve got several species from the genus visiting my garden, but I’ve yet to get identification for the others. These are in the Megachilidae, the Leaf-cutter and Mason Bee family. Bees in this family typically carry pollen on hairs beneath their abdomens, instead of in pollen baskets on their legs. You can see this bee isn’t carrying any pollen; it doesn’t even have the hairs beneath its abdomen to do so. It doesn’t need to, because it takes over the pollen-provisioned nests of other leaf-cutter bees for its own young.
Along with the Hymenoptera come the mimic flies. Many of the seeming bees and wasps, seen from a distance, turn out to be flies on closer inspection. In “the field,” i.e.: my garden, there are two features that provide quick distinction between the two familes:
Antennae: Flies have short, clublike antenna, like feelers, in the center of the face, between the eyes. Bees and wasps have long, segmented antenna arising higher up on the face, almost from the top of the head
Eyes: Flies’ compound eyes are huge, covering nearly all of their face. Bees and wasps have compound eyes that wrap partially along the sides of their heads.
The feet are also different, but I usually don’t notice those until I’m browsing and culling my shots. Finally, bees and wasps have four wings, while flies only have two – Di-ptera, two-winged.
The Syrphidae/Flower-Fly family hosts countless mimics of bees and wasps.
Eristalis arbustorum on Hydrangea
Eristalis transversa, Transverse Flower Fly
Their tactics of mimicry are not limited to patterns and colors. Many species have evolved body modifications to mimic even the shapes of wasps and bees.
Syritta pipiens provides a good example of this. This is the most wasp-like fly I’ve found yet in my garden, though more extreme mimics exist. Glimpsed from behind as it moves quickly over the flowers, it could easily be mistaken for a tiny wasp.
Viewed from the side, or the front, Syritta is more obviously a fly, not a wasp, and a dedicated mimic.
Toxomerus geminatus sports a radically flattened abdomen. This seems to be an adaptation to present a wider area from above, as a predator might view it, for displaying its mimicry, while preserving a smaller volume and keeping weight down.
I wonder what they are mimicing? Might some of these mimics mirror actual target species, not just general “bee-ness” or “wasp-ness”? If so, I would expect to find both the mimic and subject in the same range, and exhibit the same phenology. For example, Toxomerus bears a resemblance to Agapostemon at a quick glance.
Photographing Insect Activity
This is my setup for doing live insect macro photography “in the wild,” i.e.: in my garden. The lens is a specialized macro lens that allows for an extremely close focusing distance, though I’m not taking advantage of it in this example. I target some flowers with lots of insect activity, in this case, a local ecotype of Monarda fistulosa, in the Lamiaceae, the Mint Family. Then I wait for insects to visit the flowers, within range of the camera.
I use the tripod handle to pivot up and down; it turns side-to-side easily. Ease of rapid movement with stability is critical, as the insect subjects move rapidly over each inflorescence, and from bloom to bloom. Still, the tripod only steadies my own shaky hands. The insects, of course, are moving, but so are the plants, which sway with the slightest breezes. A fast auto-focus helps; a quick hand is still needed when automation fails.
The mobility allows me to track a single insect as it moves around, and capture different shots, and perspectives, on the same individual. This is critical for identification, since I don’t know until later what the key features to look for might be. It’s often some tiny detail, only revealed from some obscure angle, that distinguishes the species.
My subjects, while largely oblivious to my actions, are not cooperative. I have to shoot hundreds of photos to get a few good shots that are in focus, free of motion blur, and have enough of the right details to identify the species, or at least narrow down to the family. This was never possible, or at least not economically feasible, before digital photography.
Macro shot of Pycnanthemum inflorescences, with common objects for scale: left, pencil eraser, right, U.S. nickle coin.
The Baltic Street Community Garden in Park Slope, as it appeared in July 2008. It was destroyed in 2009 by the NYC Department of Education.
The agreement that has largely protected New York City community gardens for nearly a decade expires this September. Community gardens fall under different jurisdictions, depending on whether they are in private hands, such as a land trust organization, or on land controlled by an Agency of the City. In advance of the expiration of the agreement, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR, or simply “Parks”) and Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have drafted revised rules for governing the gardens under their care. In short: gardens will have no protection.
Public comments are due in writing by August 10. To view the proposed rules, or to submit comments:
Panorama, Buffa10 Cocktail Hour, Thursday, July 8, 2010
Elizabeth Licata, one of the organizers and hosts of Buffa10, opened her garden for a cocktail reception for early arrivals the afternoon of Thursday, July 8, the first official event for Buffa10. As enjoyable as it was to rub shoulders with other garden bloggers, it was a real treat to visit a garden I’d only seen online. This view was familiar to me, as it was to her other readers, from her personal garden blog, Gardening While Intoxicated.
I’m looking forward to this. Installation will take place from Thursday, August 5 through Sunday, August 31. The work is planned to be on display for nearly a year, through June 2011.
Brooklyn, July 10, 2010—Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) announces the commission of its first site-specific sculpture to celebrated artist Patrick Dougherty, whose massive constructions made of woven saplings and twigs conjure up the creations of Lewis Carroll and Andy Goldsworthy for their outsized physicality and whimsical charm.
Dougherty began developing concepts for the work during a July 2009 visit to BBG, when he selected the Plant Family Collection—the physical and horticultural heart of the Garden—as the site of the future work. The final design will be revealed when construction gets under way in the first week of August 2010.
Dougherty sees himself in the tradition of artists for whom the process is as important as the end result, and his particular artistic process engages the expertise of staff throughout Brooklyn Botanic Garden. To locate a source for the saplings required for the sculpture, for example, BBG’s director of Science, Dr. Gerry Moore, called upon his field knowledge garnered during the Garden’s 20-year study of flora in the metropolitan area. He settled on Ocean Breeze Park on Staten Island, about 13 miles from Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which has an abundance of nonnative willow (Salix atrocinerea), a species typically targeted for removal. BBG Horticulture staff will oversee removal of the invasive plant material over a period of days, providing the double service of facilitating Dougherty’s project and improving the balance of native species in the park.
During the rest of August, the sculpture will be brought to glorious life under Dougherty’s direction, aided by a corps of assistants from the Garden’s staff and volunteers. Some helpers will be scaling scaffolding to manage the vertical support poles; others will be instructed in the artist’s signature weaving process, which lends Dougherty’s sculpture its structural strength and visual dynamism.
Dougherty’s career melds his technical carpentry skills with his lifelong love of the outdoors. He began creating sculpture in 1980, fashioning single pieces in his backyard. Since then, he has created nearly 200 pieces for institutions and galleries. For more information about Patrick Dougherty at BBG, visit bbg.org/dougherty. For more information about Brooklyn Botanic Garden, visit bbg.org.
Contact: Kate Blumm, Brooklyn Botanic Garden 718-623-7241 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The first official event of Buffa10 was a Thursday afternoon cocktail reception, appropriately held in the Gardening While Intoxicated garden of Elizabeth Licata, one of our hosts for Buffa10, and 1/4 of the Gang of Four behind Garden Rant. Before, during and after, we were invited to wander – the Garden Stumble – the neighborhood’s streets, admire the architecture, and visit several of the gardens opened for us in a preview of Buffalo’s justly famed Garden Walk, happening this weekend.
For those attending Buffa10, North Pearl Street was our gateway to the architecture and gardens of Buffalo, a prelude to the abundance we would enjoy throughout the weekend. Front yards were mostly populated entirely by gardens. This front yard at 82 North Pearl Street was typically lush, with Hydrangea quercifolia (Oak-Leaf Hydrangea), Hosta, Hemerocallis, tall Lilium and Achillea, Bergenia, Lavandula, and many more species and varieties. I especially liked the use of Matteucia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern, whose arching exclamations give movement to the garden more typically provided by tall ornamental grasses.
The few lawns were more often surrounded by gardens, like this one. 45 North Pearl Street, Allentown Area, Buffalo, NY
A lovely Rudbeckia in a sunny front-yard garden.
Lysimachia clethroides, Gooseneck Loosestrife, native to China and Japan, common in Buffalo gardens.
Lysimachia ciliata, Fringed Loosestrife, native to North America, which I’ve never seen before this, nicely used in a wide, shaded bed between sidewalk and curb. It’s a charming wildflower, one for which I now must find an excuse to grow in my own native plant garden.
Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, one of my personal favorites for shady gardens.
Cotinus coggygria, Smoketree/Smokebush, common in Buffalo gardens.
Panorama of the the Buffa10 visit to the Trial Gardens at the Erie Basin Marina in Buffalo, NY
I arrived in Buffalo on Wednesday, July 7. I wanted to take in some sights on Thursday before the Buffa10 schedule began. I found myself at the Erie Basin Marina Trial Gardens. Even though we would be visiting on Saturday, I was glad to have a prolonged visit on my own.
Shortly after I arrived at the Gardens Thursday, I met Stan Swisher, one of the nursery managers there. We spent a couple hours talking about the operation, visiting the different beds. Stan showed me countless specimens, and gave me the back-story on several of them. Here, Stan shares with me the details of a double-flowered Bacopa.
This is Echinacea ‘Pow-Wow Wild Berry’ from PanAm Seed. It’s short and compact, an asset for smaller gardens, but there are several cultivars available today with similar habit. What’s remarkable about it is that it grew to this flowering size from seed this season.
Another interesting breakthrough is X Calitunia, an intergeneric cross of of Calibrachoa and Petunia. Riding on the Buffa10 short bus with Joseph (Greensparrow Gardens), he explained that this was surprising because the two parent genera have different numbers of chromosomes.
When we arrived on Saturday morning, we were given four red flags on long metal stems. These served as our votes, one for each grower represented in the Gardens. Not everyone got the memo about “one per grower,” but we had fun walking around tagging our favorites.
Stan told me that “the public likes pretty flowers.” The garden writers and bloggers of Buffa10 seemed to be no exception. Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’ was the top favorite of the Buffa10 crew. I think I may have voted for this, myself. She’s a stunner.
Nevertheless, at least three of us tossed Juncus ‘Blue Arrow’ a vote. He’s a handsome fellow in his own right. The three of us being rather contrarian bloggers and gardeners may also have influenced our choice in this regard.
Here are the Buffa10 choices, based on votes.
Delphinium ‘Diamond Blue’
Angelonia ‘Big Blue’
Petunia ‘Sun Ray’
Portulaca ‘Pazazz Tangerine’
Achillea ‘Little Susie’
Achillea ‘Red Velvet’
Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’
Solenostemon (Coleus) ‘Spitfire’
Bracteantha ‘Yellow Strawburst’
Pelargonium (Geranium) ‘American Magenta Splash’
Penstemon ‘Phoenix Red’
During my visit on Thursday, Stan bought me lunch – a hot dog and a ginger ale – and gave me a lift back to the hotel. This had no influence on the content of this post.
A panoramic view of the walled garden of the Twentieth Century Club in Buffalo, NY.
Dinner Thursday evening was at the Twentieth Century Club, a Buffalo institution that had its origins in an alumni association of the Buffalo Seminary. These roots were reflected in the walled garden, a cloistered garden, where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and company beneath the shade of a huge mature beech tree.