Grief and Gardening: Index

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY, April 2021
Next Tuesday, September 20th, I will be the guest speaker for Green-Wood Cemetery’s Death Cafe. Next week is also Climate Week; the topic is “Grief and Gardening”, that title taken from the long-running series of blog posts here.

Listed below are my related blog posts, grouped by topic. For now, I’m omitting all the eulogies and remembrances for the deaths of family, friends, and pets.

Grief and Gardening: Ashes (Remembrance Day for Lost Species), published 2019-12-02, is one of my favorite writings on the subject of grief. It weaves together nearly all the topics below.

Biodiversity Loss

Remembrance Day for Lost Species Day, aka Lost Species Day, is November 30th. Many of these blog posts are on or near that date.

Grief and Gardening: Extinct Plants of northern North America 2021, 2021-11-30
Extinct Plants of northern North America 2020, 2020-11-30
Extinct Plants of northern North America 2018, 2018-11-30
Extinct Plants of northern North America 2015, 2015-11-29
Extinct Plants of northern North America, 2014-11-30

Climate Change

The IPCC Report: Grief & Gardening #6, 2007-02-04


Grief and Gardening: A Dissetling Spring, 2020-03-19
Drumbeat, 2020-03-27
Grief and Gardening: A Feast of Losses, 2020-04-06
Correspondence, April 2020, 2020-04-13
Grief and Gardening: The Defiant Gardener, 2020-05-06

I adapted some of what I wrote on the blog, and several of my tweets on this subject, for a short post on McSweeney’s: “Do Not Deny What You Feel“. The McSweeney’s piece was later picked up by YES! Magazine. Search for “Flatbush”. or “AIDS”.


Grief and Gardening: 20 Years, 2021-09-11
Grief and Gardening: Remains of the Day, 2019-07-11
Grief & Gardening: Nine Years, 2010-09-11
Seven years, 2008-09-10
In the Shadow (How shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?), 2007-08-08
Grief & Gardening #2: Five Years After, “Ths Transetorey Life”, 2006-09-09
Grief & Gardening #1: 1, 5 and 25, 2006-09-04
Without God, 2001-10-15
This Week in History, 2001-09-14


Names, 2021-12-01 (World AIDS Day)
Off-Topic: The Conversation: 2016-03-12 (on Nancy Reagan’s death)
In the Shadow (How shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?), 2007-08-08


2006-10-08: Grief & Gardening #3: Nihilism and Squirrels

Gardening Matters: The death of Takeo Shiota (Grief & Gardening #4), 2006-10-29
The Daffodil Project: Grief & Gardening #5, 2006-11-26< Continue reading

iNaturalist Workshops, The High Line, Saturday September 25

Updated 2021-09-25: Added Links and QR Codes to “Getting Started with iNaturalist”.

I’m pleased to announce that Saturday, September 25th, I will be leading two iNaturalist Workshops “in the field” at The High Line. This is one of several workshops, and many other events, they have scheduled for Insectageddon, which runs from 3-6pm that Saturday afternoon.

Self-Portrait of an iNaturalist as an old man

I’ll be doing two walks:

  • 3:15-4:15 pm
  • 4:45-5:45 pm

When not out on one of the walks, I’ll have a table in The High Line’s Chelsea Market Passage, between 15th and 16th Streets. Please sign up there for one of the two workshops, as space will be limited. Each walk will start out from that location.

iNaturalist Workshop
Hosted by Chris Kreussling, aka “Flatbush Gardener”
Join Chris Kreussling for a walk on the High Line to explore plant and insect interactions and learn about the citizen scientist observation gathering tool iNaturalist. Tours begin at 3:30 and 4:45; please sign up upon arrival at Chris’s table in Chelsea Market Passage. Chris is a Brooklyn naturalist and gardener specializing in gardening with native plants to create habitat for pollinators and other invertebrates.

Visiting the High Line

Note that there are weekend restrictions in place for visitors to The High Line. You must register for timed entry; pre-registration is highly recommended. The only weekend entrances open are at Gansevoort Street, 23rd Street, and 30th Street. 

Please give yourself plenty of time to get to my table in Chelse Market Passage for the start of the walk. The 14th Street entrance is exit-only on weekends. The closest weekend entrance is Gansevoort Street, at the corner of Washington Street, the southern end of The High Line. This entrance is just three blocks south of 14th Street.

Getting Started with iNaturalist

  1. Sign up at


    • You must be 13 or older.
    • You can link to your existing social media account, such as Twitter or Facebook
    • If you don’t have an existing social media account you want to link to, you can create a new account with a valid email address
  2. If you have existing photos you want to identify, you can begin uploading them to iNaturalist through your Web browser.
  3. Recommended: Also install the iNaturalist app on your Android phone or iPhone or other Apple device. Be sure to link it to the account you just created. You can then take photos on your phone and upload them directly to iNaturalist.




Related Content

Native Pollinator Walks, Wave Hill, Sunday, June 27, 2021-06-14
Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants, 2019-06-23
NYC Wildflower Week  Tour of my Gardens, 2016-05-15
NYC Wildflower Week Pollinator Safari of my Gardens, 2014-06-21



Getting Started

Grief & Gardening: 20 Years

Written spontaneously as a Twitter thread, and transcribed to this blog post.

Anti-war graffiti on base of statue, Union Square Park, September 24, 2001 

I’m avoiding the news today. As well as the retraumatizing snuff porn documentaries. I’ve written about all of it before. I don’t feel the need to day to write any more. I wrote this 15 years ago about Anniversaries, my first “Grief & Gardening” post:

The ways we observe anniversaries is arbitrary. For example, I was shocked to tears for weeks by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, which killed 100 times more people than Katrina [1st Anniversary]. The earthquake which precipitated it left the entire planet ringing like a bell. The observation of “25 Years of AIDS” at this year’s World AIDS Congress is pinned only to the first official report of a cluster of unusual deaths by the Centers for Disease Control in June of 1981. The timelines of epidemics don’t follow our categorizations of them.
Grief & Gardening #1: 1, 5 and 25, 2006-09-04


At the time, I didn’t have the blog yet. I wrote a lot in my journal. I transcribed some of it to back-dated blog posts. This was the first:

Like an earthquake, the initial shocks have affected each of us differently, and to different degrees. The aftershocks will continue for months. The effects will ripple out for decades. If I believed there was anyone to listen, let alone, answer, I would pray that each of us gets whatever we need to come through healthy and whole. I would pray that, individually and collectively, we respond to this violence with compassion, wisdom, courage and strength.
This Week in History, 2001-09-14

Roadside Sentiment, Hudson, New York, September 16, 2001 

The second back-dated blog post transcribes a letter I wrote to Rev. Joanna Tipple, then pastor of the Copake, NY church, which had been my husband’s church when he was growing up:

Again, and still, horrors are committed in the name of God. A month ago, more than five thousand people lost their lives in a smoking crater, killed in the name of God. It makes no difference to me whether the banner reads “Holy War” or “God Bless America.” This crisis has brought out both the best and worst in people. Like any tool, the idea of God is used for evil as well as good. Then what good is God?
Without God

Grieving Angel I worked in downtown Manhattan for 35 years before retiring two months ago. As the 5th Anniversary approached, Ground Zero was still just that, a wound. Everywhere were commemorative signs and symbols. You could feel it just walking around.

I have been feeling this one, the 5th anniversary of 9/11. The city is feeling it, too. Peoples’ grief is closer to the surface, more accessible. Mine certainly is. I’ve also been remembering a lot of what it was like in the city right after. There are reminders of it everywhere, on the news, in the papers, special exhibits and events, and especially, at Ground Zero.
Grief & Gardening #2: Five Years After, “Ths Transetorey Life”, 2006-09-09

I moved to NYC, to the East Village, in 1979. Though I survived, many did not. It’s why grief and loss pervade my writing, including my blog. I wrote this in 2007, after learning of the death, from AIDS, of yet another of my last lovers.

Reminders of the upcoming 6th Anniversary of 9/11 are piling up. My first day back at work from my [recent] trip, I walked by the Deutsche Bank building – ruined in the attacks, condemned, and only now being dismantled – where two firefighters had lost their lives the day before. I could see the blackened scaffolding and walls of the building. I smelled the smoke, startled for a few minutes, taken back to the months after the attacks, when the fires burned for months, when we walked every day through the crematory of downtown Manhattan.
In the Shadow (How shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?), 2007-08-08

Bulldog 6
On the 7th Anniversary, I wrote my name on a beam that was intended to become part of the Memorial at Ground Zero. I was briefly interviewed by a local radio reporter from 1010WINS. I met a good dog.

Flags, flags, flags … flags waving everywhere. I understand the impulse, yet I don’t feel it as a defiant gesture. It feels like a concession to me. That we have no greater symbol than our nation’s flag makes me sad. What evil has been committed in the name of that flag?
Seven years, 2008-09-10

Skytop and tower, Mohonk, New York, September 10, 2001
On the 9th Anniversary, with some perspective of years, I was able to write coherently about what our experience had been that day, that week. I worked downtown, through the months of smoke and ash that followed. And year after year in NYC.

We decided to hold to our vacation plans for the week, somber though it was. There was nothing we could do back home. My workplace downtown, blocks from Ground Zero, would not reopen for two weeks. Reminders met us everywhere we went. And everywhere we went, we were ambassadors for New York City. When we told people where we were from, as often as not, they broke down crying. We were their reminders.
Grief & Gardening: Nine Years, 2010-09-11

St. Paul's Enshrouded
I avoid “ticker tape” parades.

The gutters were thick with shreds of paper, and ash, for weeks and months after 9/11. The gray ash was the last to go. Living and working in downtown after 9/11 was being in a crematorium.
Grief and Gardening: Remains of the Day, 2019-07-11

So, I don’t feel a need to write anything new today. I’m going to spend the day away from television, and news, and commemorations. I will instead hug my husband, squish our cats, and spend time in the garden photographing bugs, observing and celebrating the diversity of life. *Agapostemon* on *Pycnanthemum muticum* in front of my garage, August 2021

Related Content

In chronological order. 2001-09-14: This Week in History
2001-10-15: Without God
2006-09-04: Grief & Gardening #1: 1, 5 and 25
2006-09-09: Grief & Gardening #2: Five Years After, “Ths Transetorey Life”
2007-08-08: In the Shadow (How shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?)
2008-09-10: Seven years
2010-09-11: Grief & Gardening: Nine Years
2019-07-11: Grief and Gardening: Remains of the Day

2021-09-11: Twitter thread


The Last Goodbyes


2020-09-26 21:50

I said my last goodbye to my mother today. I don’t think she heard me. I whispered, because I didn’t want to disturb her, and she’s hard of hearing as it is.

I don’t expect her to rally again. I don’t expect any more lucid minutes, or moments. I believe our mother is gone, but her body doesn’t know it yet.

The only time today she exhibited any arousal – not even awake, really – was when the home health aide came this morning and we changed her. She only accepted two syringes of thickened cranberry juice, and waved off the rest. She didn’t even wince when we pulled her higher up on the mattress, an act which was causing her excruciating pain just a few days ago.

She fell asleep after that. She slept all day. She still sleeps now. Her breath is shallow, but easy and regular.

It’s her third day not eating.

We’re just waiting, now.

2020-09-28, 22:00

It’s two days later. Five days since she’s eaten anything. It’s now been a week since we officially entered hospice. We are still just waiting.

She sleeps. She no longer has any even semi-conscious moments. Mornings had been the worst time for her pain. We’re still only moving her once each morning to change out her incontinence supports and make sure she’s not developing any compression injuries, i.e. “bedsores”. During this morning’s changeout, she had no reaction. She is gone. Her body just hasn’t caught up.

Goodbye #2

Still, I gave her another goodbye this evening. I held her arm and hand, the “bad” one, on the right side of her body, affected most by the cerebral palsy she was born with. Among other things, I said her hand was beautiful to me, that it always was. This goodbye was less tearful than Saturday’s. There is some acceptance in me, yes, but also I’m just exhausted.

When my father was dying, they drew up reciprocal documents naming each other as health care proxies, powers of attorney, and estate executors. When my father died, those roles and responsibilities transferred to me. There are some things we can do beforehand. Since my mother is no longer responsive, and can no longer speak for herself, I’m acting in accordance with her wishes.

We “check on her” adhoc, or whenever we pass by the room where she’s setup. She’s no longer restless or agitated in sleep, which is good. So for me, euphemistically “checking on her” means first looking to see if she’s (still) breathing. If so, I’ll check her temperature at her forehead, her hands, her feet, and adjust her covers accordingly. If her breathing is a bit labored, I may lower the head of the bed even further to reduce compression on her diaphragm.


At some point – soon, I hope – one of us will walk in on her and she will no longer be breathing. Whoever finds her, son or daughter, will tell the other. We will tear down the dams and release the rivers of grief we’ve been holding back. We will sob and weep, wordlessly holding each other, now just the two of us left in our little family. When we’re ready, I’ll start making the phone calls that will set us on our journey away from our mother.

I’ve already had the last conversation I will ever have with my mother. I’ve said all the goodbyes I can. I just want this part to be over.

Related Content

2020-09-25: Waking Up From Death 

2020-09-23: The Night’s Watch


The Night’s Watch


While the world burns down around us, I am sitting in a darkened room, with just the sounds of a small table fan and an oxygen concentrator, watching over my mother. My only company is Raja, one of the house cats in my sister’s house, keeping watch over my left shoulder.

John and I drove down from Brooklyn to Ocean County, New Jersey on Friday, after my initial physical therapy consult, part of my ongoing recovery from hand surgery three weeks ago. I had packed the night before. I’d been in daily conversation with my sister, by phone or text for the prior week, as our mother went into a steep, rapid decline. Of greatest concern was her lack of appetite; we have to crush all her meds to administer them with her food, all of which is pureed, mashed, or otherwise pulped.

It’s the longest my sister and I have spent together under the same roof since I left college.

Dissociation is my superpower. I have dressed and undressed my mother, seen her naked, wiped her bottom. I can attend to her, asking her the same question over and over, until I get a glimmer of understanding. Or I can move on, passing over the grief I feel that she is gone, cognitively, that I’ve already had the last conversation I will ever have with her, shared the last joke, excited the last smile, or smirk, from her aged lips.

Just now, a deep, low, relaxed groan escapes her. Startled by the sound, and its possible implications, I look up at her. Yes, she is still breathing, shallow and rapid, as she has been most of today. 

I am afraid to leave her side because I don’t think she’ll last the night. I have never experienced another’s passing. Some selfish part of me wants to be here for that, for her, for me. Like maybe there really is something? That it’s not just physics and chemistry and homeostasis keeping the machinery running? 

I don’t believe that, of course. But I understand the comfort that could be found in such beliefs. Especially now, sitting here in a darkened room, kept company by the sounds of tireless machines, each to its purpose.

Oxygen Concentrator

Related Content


Former BBG Herbarium property for sale

Want to build next to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens? This might be your one and only chance.
Development Site Adjacent to Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Hits Market, Terrance Cullen, Commercial Observer, 2015-09-10

More like building on the grave of BBG’s science and research mission. This is not just “walking distance from the Botanic Gardens;” it’s the former site of Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Herbarium, known as BKL.

The 22,000-square-foot plot at 111 Montgomery Street in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn is hitting the market for a potential developer looking to likely build condominiums.

According to the NYC Department of Buildings, the property is 109-111 Montgomery Street. BBG quietly announced almost a year ago that they would be “disposing” of:

… BBG’s building at 109 Montgomery Street, which has foundation problems and is not cost effective to repair.

The disposition is expected to generate significant revenue …
BBG Announces Disposition of Montgomery Street Building, 2014-10-24

Indeed. The Observer article gives “an asking price in the mid-$40 million.”

BBG’s October announcement made no mention of the herbarium. In their “Freedom is Slavery” double-speak, they claim the sale as “the first step in reintroducing a science research program at the Garden.” “Reintroducing” because BBG removed science from their mission in September 2013, with no announcement, just a month after firing their remaining science staff,

BBG planned to transfer the herbarium – again, without announcement – out of state, either to the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) or the Smithsonian. This would have been a disaster for the natural history and cultural heritage of New York state. It was only through last-minute, behind-the-scenes advocacy and intervention in March of this year that the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) instead accepted the contents on loan. That move was completed in April.

In June of this year, BBG sold the property to the holding company, 109 Montgomery LLC, for $24.5 million.

According to the president of the brokerage handling the sale of the herbarium property, “There’s a real need for families moving into Brooklyn to buy apartments within the $1 to $2 million range.” But no room for science, at any price.

Related Content

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Slash and Burn “Campaign for the 21st Century”, 2013-08-23
Brooklyn Botanic Garden removes science from its mission, 2014-01-20


Bombus fervidus, golden northern bumblebee, yellow bumblebee

Sunday, while cutting up edited plants into my compost tumbler, I caught sight of something unusual out of the corner of my eye. It turned out to be Bombus fervidus, golden northern bumblebee, or simply, the yellow bumblebee.
Bombus fervidus, golden northern bumblebee, on Vernonia noveboracensis, New York ironweed, in my garden, August 2015

This is at least the 21st bee species I’ve found in my garden. And this brings to 20, or more, the number of new insect species I’ve identified in my garden this year alone.

Bombus fervidus, golden northern bumblebee

Related Content

Flickr photo set
All my bee photo albums


BugGuide: Bombus fervidus, Golden Northern Bumble Bee
Discover Life: Bombus fervidus
Encyclopedia of Life: Bombus fervidus

Sign the Petition to Restore Science to Brooklyn Botanic Garden

2013-10-05: Guest post on Garden Rant.
2013-09-26: Thanks to the Brokelyn link, the petition surges past 2,500, adding 800 new signatures in two days, nearly all of them from Brooklyn.
2013-09-24: Brokelyn favorably summarizes the issue and links to the petition.
2013-09-22: The NY Times mentions the petition, but doesn’t link to it. It briefly quotes me and links to this blog. The article is a puff piece largely written by BBG.
The petition has reached 1,750 signatures, and continues to grow.
2013-09-19: Brooklyn Daily Eagle and NY Daily News have picked up the petition.
We reached the 1,500 signature mark earlier today.
2013-09-16: Added selections of some of my favorite comments from signatories to the petition.


Seeds, Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed, NYC-local ecotype, growing in my urban backyard native plant garden and wildlife habitat in November 2010. Monitoring and propagation of rare and endangered native plants from local, wild populations is one of the activities Brooklyn Botanic has eliminated with its latest round of cuts.
Seeds, /Asclepias incarnata/, Swamp Milkweed, NYC-local ecotype

Three weeks ago, I wrote about the elimination of the last science staff, programs and activities at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG). Since then, I’ve learned much more about the history of just how far BBG has drifted from its mission, which is supposed to include:

Engaging in research in plant sciences to expand human knowledge of plants, and disseminating the results to science professionals and the general public.

Several of us have continued working to formulate a response. Over the weekend, we launched a petition on to Restore Science to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden:

Reinstate Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s field work, herbarium and library access, and the scientists needed to support these programs and services.

Restore science as a priority, as required by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s mission: “Engaging in research in plant sciences to expand human knowledge of plants, and disseminating the results to science professionals and the general public.”

Include Brooklyn, its neighborhoods, and scientific communities – the public for which Brooklyn Botanic Garden was founded, and is funded, to serve – in all decisions affecting its research and education programs and activities.

In less than 24 hours, we reached the 100-signature mark. Even this early, after seeing the responses in one day, there’s hope we may see thousands of signatures in this campaign.

If you share our concern and passion about these developments, please read, sign, and share and forward the petition.

Selected Comments

As of the evening of Monday, September 16, the petition exceeded 500 signatures. (1,330 as of Wednesday evening.) I’ve been trying to read all of the comments, but I can’t keep up any more. Here are some of my favorites.

Botanic Gardens and Arboreta must continue to maintain experts in the local floras and ecology. In many areas they are the last bastion of botany as universities abandon the study of plants for more lucrative directions.

As a longstanding member of the BBG, I have been dismayed to learn of these layoffs. Science should be a priority aspect of the BBG’s focus and investment. Given the high-profile, major expenditures on upscale entrances/architecture and related new features of the garden, I’m confused as to how the budget for what should be the most essential, core components of your work is somehow lacking.

Eliminating science and education from the BBG will reduce a world-class botanical institution to just another Brooklyn bauble.

I am a plant systematics researcher and access to the invaluable natural history collections stored and curated in herbaria is important to my work. I have had a chance to interact with the staff at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and they are exceptionally helpful and profssional. Even if the physical facilities are damaged, sacking the staff, who look after the collections and maintain a research program at the herbarium, shows a real lack of commitment to science by the board.

Without science-based publication, I will no longer be able to use and recommend your publications. The botanical world is awhirl in change – what a lousy time to abandon your gardens to the whimsy of marketers.

As a longstanding member of the BBG, I have been dismayed to learn of these layoffs. Science should be a priority aspect of the BBG’s focus and investment. Given the high-profile, major expenditures on upscale entrances/architecture and related new features of the garden, I’m confused as to how the budget for what should be the most essential, core components of your work is somehow lacking.



And this one stands alone:

“For the advancement of botany and the service of the city.” Although it galls some to be reminded of the vision of Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s first director, Charles Stuart Gager, the mission was never more clearly stated. In the first volume of the Garden’s Record, Gager wrote that a botanic garden’s “aims and treatment must differ greatly from those of a public park or a mere pleasure garden.” Judged by their recent action and inaction the current administration and board of trustees disagree and seem determined to erase the history of a great institution.

Gager so valued a botanical library that he made personal appeals for acquisitions and wrote to readers of the Record, “A well chosen library is absolutely essential in order properly to classify, name, and label our collections and public exhibits.” Three years ago this administration and board also eviscerated that department. One must ask where will it end?

For anyone who would like to read about BBG’s dishonored history, it can be accessed here: Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record, Volume 1, 1912

Related Content

Petition to Restore Science to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Slash and Burn “Campaign for the 21st Century”, 2013-08-23

The Plight of NYC’s Native Flora, 2010-04-08
The Brooklyn Blogade at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2008-10-12
Web Resource: New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF), 2008-06-02

All my Brooklyn Botanic Garden blog posts


The Petition in the News:
Petition Seeks to Bring Science Back to Brooklyn Botanic Garden, David Colon, Brokelyn, 2013-09-24
Science is on hiatus at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brady Dale, Brooklyn, 2013-09-23
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Defends Decision to Suspend Science Program, Lisa Foderaro, NY Times, 2013-09-22.
Angry tree huggers demand that Brooklyn Botanic Garden bring back axed researchers, NY Daily News, 2013-09-19. Note: The reporter contacted me late in the day the article went online. We spoke for about 10 minutes. However, none of our conversation made it into the article. The quotes attributed to me come directly from the text of the petition.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden denies it’s ending scientific research, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 2013-09-18. Note: Although I’m quoted in this article, they made no attempt to contact me. Everything attributed to me comes from the petition.
Neighbor Starts Petition To Restore Science At Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Ditmas Park Corner Blog, 2013-09-17

Brooklyn Botanic Garden denies it’s ending scientific research, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 2013-09-18
Note: I am quoted in the Eagle article, but they made no attempt to contact me. (And I’m easy to find!) All language attributed to me comes from the petition.
Botanic Garden’s celebrated plant research center wilts under layoffs, NY Daily News, 2013-08-28
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Cuts Science Staff Weeks After Native Garden Debut, DNAInfo, Crown 
Heights and Prospect Heights edition, 2013-08-23

My husband, John Magisano, a consultant to non-profits, has made a case study of this episode on his blog, Softball Practice:

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Petition, Marie Viljoen, 66 Square Feet, 2013-10-07 (updated, originally published 2013-09-20)
BBG Purge, Backyard and Beyond, 2013-08-23
Brooklyn Botanic Garden suspends science program, Kent Holsinger, 2013-08-23

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Names New President, Press Release, published on BGCI Web site, 2005-08-15
Spring has Sprung, Ivan Oransky, TheScientist, 2005-04-25

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Mission Statement, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Announces Interim Herbarium Plans, 2013-09-12
BBG Announces Plan to Reenvision Research Program, 2013-09-06
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Announces Suspension of Research Program, 2013-08-28
Note: BBG PULLED this press release when they decided they were “re-envisioning,” not “suspending,” all science and research.

Campaign for the Next Century
Herbarium Course at BBG, 2012-08-10
Herbarium Receives Historic Collection, 2012-05-31
New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF)

BBG’s 2013-09-06 Press Release:

In late August, Brooklyn Botanic Garden announced plans to put its research program on hiatus while it grapples with an engineering problem in its science building and formulates a plan for a new research direction in plant conservation.

Garden president Scot Medbury said, “Our commitment to scientific research as a fundamental part of the Garden’s mission is unwavering. We will use this transition period to refine the focus of our research program and strengthen its base of financial support.”

During the hiatus, the Garden is taking proactive steps to protect its valuable herbarium from a failing building foundation and will limit herbarium access to qualified researchers while planning to relocate the collection.

“BBG has successfully reimagined its research programs several times in its hundred-year history, and this is another such juncture,” said Medbury.

BBG’s 2013-09-12 Press Release:

Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) today announced a new collaboration offered by The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) during a period of planning and construction affecting access to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Herbarium.

In late August, engineering problems affecting the foundation at Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s off-site science center led to a phased closure of that building and consequent access restrictions to its herbarium, the collection of 330,000 pressed, dried plant specimens housed there. While planning gets under way to relocate the BBG Herbarium (BKL), BBG will remain focused on the care of its herbarium collections, maintaining one part-time and two full-time staff members, including its director of collections, Tony Morosco, an eight-year veteran of the University of California’s Jepson Herbarium during a similar period of transition.

As part of the new collaboration, science staff from NYBG’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium will provide additional monitoring and support for the BKL during BBG’s planning phases. BBG’s important subcollection of herbarium type specimens will be temporarily moved to NYBG to facilitate researcher access. NYBG will also help process the return of loans made to other institutions from the BKL and assist with future loan requests. In addition, plans are in progress to transfer the BKL database to NYBG, where it will become a subunit of NYBG’s C.V. Starr Virtual Herbarium.

“Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s commitment to ensuring that scientific research remains a fundamental part of its mission is unwavering,” said Scot Medbury, president of BBG. “We are deeply grateful to The New York Botanical Garden for their generous technical support while we undergo a major transition.”

Atteva aurea, Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Atteva aurea, Ailanthus Webworm Moth, on Pycnanthemum, Mountain-Mint, in my garden last weekend. The intense colors are believed to be aposematic, a warning coloration to deter predators, probably because they would be distasteful.
Atteva aurea, Ailanthus Webworm Moth, on Pycnanthemum, Mountain-Mint

The larvae – caterpillars – feed in communal aggregations, like tent caterpillars. Around the globe, caterpillars in the genus Atteva are known to feed on plants from at least a half-dozen plant families. But they favor plants in the Simaroubaceae, the Quassia Family.

The Quassia Family includes the infamous invasive tree, Ailanthus altissima, Tree-of-heaven, probably best known as “that tree what grew in Brooklyn.” So, as Ailanthus has invaded here, Atteva aurea discovered a new suitable host. It’s likely this has supported an increase in its numbers, and possibly its range, from its original native populations.

Atteva aurea, Ailanthus Webworm Moth, on Pycnanthemum, Mountain-Mint

Atteva aurea, Ailanthus Webworm Moth, on Pycnanthemum, Mountain-Mint

Atteva aurea, Ailanthus Webworm Moth, on Pycnanthemum, Mountain-Mint

Taxonomic notes

Atteva is the sole genus in the subfamiuly Attevinae, the Tropical Ermine Moths, of the lovely-named family Yponomeutidae, the Ermine Moths. “Ermine” because the moths’ coloration resembles that of the spotted forms of the coat of the Ermine, Mustela erminea. This is a photo of another Ermine Moth, Yponomeuta evonymella, showing the classic “ermine” pattern of that species. Image ©entomart, via Wikipedia/Wikimedia.

Per BugGuide, the family name, and the genus from which it arises, is likely a typographic error:

Family is named for genus Yponomeuta Latreille, 1796. That name was apparently a typographic error (!) for Hyponomeuta. That would be a combination of Greek prefix hypo under, plus nomeuta (unknown, perhaps from Greek pno air; breathing, plus meuta?)

The many ecotypes across the wide range of this species give rise to variations of color patterns. These variants have identified under many different specific epithets, and even other genera. (BugGuide notes: “This moth belongs to a species complex that was recently split”). Because of this, searching taxonomic-based resources, such as the Caterpillar Host Plants Database,  for this species may not identify all relevant records.

Related Content

Flickr photo set


HOSTS Database: Genus Atteva
The Plant List: Simaroubaceae
USDA Plants: Ailanthus altissima

Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail

Update 2012-09-10: Only one caterpillar remains.

The morning of the day we left on our last road trip – which led us to the Adirondack Hudson, among other places – I saw this in one of our vegetable beds:
Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail

This is a female Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio polyxenes. I caught her at the moment she discovered our group of parsley plants (Petroselinum hortense, or P. crispum). She was laying eggs, carefully placing just one under separate leaves of two of the plants.

Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail, ovipositing on Petroselinum hortense (P. crispum), Parsley

The eggs are tiny. For scale, my thumbnail is about 1/2″ wide.
Egg, Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail

Eastern Blacks are members of a mimicry complex that includes several other species of large, black or dark brown swallowtails with spots and blue iridescence:

The beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor, is the model of a Batesian mimicry complex. The members of this complex present a confusing array of blue-and-black butterflies in the summer months in the eastern United States. These include the Spicebush Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail (female), Tiger Swallowtail (dark phase, female), Red-spotted Purple and Diana Fritillary (female).

There is some indication that the Spicebush and Black Swallowtails are also distasteful, so the complex is partly Mullerian as well. In the central and western US, Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon, form bairdi), Indra Swallowtail (Papilio indra), and Ozark Swallowtail (Papilio joanae) have dark blue/black forms, probably mimics of the Pipevine Swallowtail.
– BugGuide: Battus philenor – Pipevine Swallowtail

Fortunately, several species in this complex have strong preferences for host plant families: Spicebush prefers Laureaceae, Pipevine prefers Aristolochiaceae. Knowing that the host plant, parsley, is in the Apiaceae, the Carrot/Dill Family, made it easy to quickly identify this butterfly, as the Black prefers plants in this family.

When we returned from vacation, the caterpillars had already hatched. Most of them were big! But some were still underdeveloped. I counted 14 overall.

Their appearance changes dramatically as they mature through each instar, or molting.

Early Instar Caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail
Early Instar Caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail
Middle Instar Caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail
Mid Instar Caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail
Late Instar Caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail
Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail

In the final stage, they are supposed to be mostly green. Several have reached that stage. I’m anxiously waiting for them to form chrysalises. And then, new butterflies! But probably not until next year, as they overwinter as chrysalises, and it’s getting late in the year.

If you have ever wondered how your vegetable plant could get denuded overnight, watch this video of one of the caterpillars feeding. The speed has not been modified, time-lapsed, or sped up. They eat fast!

Update, 2012-09-10

Most of the celery leaves are gone. The plants themselves have survived, and new leaves are emerging from their centers.

Their numbers gradually dwindled since I wrote this post. I couldn’t tell if they were leaving to seek a new food source, or to pupate.

By yesterday, only two large caterpillars remained. I observed one of them leave the plant and start to climb the frame of the raised bed. There was nothing for it where it was heading, so I moved it to part of one plant where leaves remained. It didn’t start feeding, as I expected. Instead, it took off in the opposite direction, toward the tomato plants.

A caterpillar of Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail, on my hand

I intervened a second time. This time, I removed it to the backyard, where I’m growing Zizia aurea, a native plant in the Apiaceae, in a mixed border. Even if it wasn’t going to feed any more, there are more options of plants, including shrubs, for it to climb and pupate. The disadvantage is that the backyard is much shadier.

Only one caterpillar remains. Soon it will set out on its own, as well, and this adventure will be over, for this year.

My plan for next year is to move some of the Zizia to ground adjacent to the raised bed. I’m hoping both that the it will thrive in a sunnier location, and that the Swallowtails will prefer it as a host plant. We will see.


Related Content

Flickr photo set: Papilio polyxenes, Eastern Black Swallowtail
Gardening with the Lepidoptera, 2011-06-11