The names we call plants say more about us than they do about the greenery that surrounds us.
Steve Brill’s first stop was the greenery behind the bike racks. Brill, who is known as Wildman Steve, picked up a weed with heart-shaped seed pods and a small, four-petalled white flower. About thirty of us were gathered for a three-hour foraging tour through Prospect Park, in Brooklyn.
Illustration by Karlotta Freier
The plant was shepherd’s purse, a name that references the seed pods’ resemblance to the containers shepherds used to make from the bladders of sheep. “It’s in the mustard family,” Brill said. “Most all of the flowers in the mustard family are four petals in the shape of a cross.” He encouraged everyone to take a bite, and to tell him what vegetable it tasted like. Continue reading →
This year’s rains reversed, temporarily, more than a decade of catastrophic drought. Some of the seeds that caused the bloom have lain dormant for years.
This winter, it rained in California. Ten inches in San Francisco in the ten days after Christmas alone. Thirty-one atmospheric rivers—columns of vapor that move water from the tropics. Record-breaking snow at Mammoth Lakes. Los Angeles measured its wettest year on record since 2004-05, the year I moved here.
Carrizo Plain National Monument. April, 2023.
My memories from that first winter are of driving in a rental car on slick gray roads, weaving around Jurassic-looking fallen palm fronds; my elderly neighbor calling, terrified, as the water rushed from my basement office toward her house; a picture on the front page of the paper showing a swimming pool sliding off a hill.
Pinnacles National Park. April, 2023.
People hunkered down; red tags went up, flagging damaged buildings. I had left all my sweaters in New York, and froze. I learned the city through a veil of rain. Looking at the mountains, downtown is to the right, and the coast is to the left.
By April, the rain had stopped, and nasturtiums, not muddy rivers, were cascading down the hillsides. Seussian red bottlebrush trees and violet jacarandas made the days vivid, and at night the white blooms emanated perfume.
So this was Los Angeles: abundant, intoxicating, unmoored. It must have been a Superbloom, though I don’t remember anyone calling it that then. I didn’t know that it would be eighteen years before I would see this Los Angeles again. Continue reading →
A new exhibition showcasing the incredible world of Australia’s birdlife will launch in Newcastle. Presented on STORYBOX, an interactive storytelling cube, The Birds of Australia, brings to life the iconic bird illustrations of John and Elizabeth Gould together with First Nations storytelling and knowledges.
We have linked to stories about both John Gould and his wife Elizabeth, and now there is a museum exhibition honoring both together, so if you happen to be in Australia:
Trace the journey of English ornithologist John Gould and his wife Elizabeth, as they travelled across New South Wales in the 1800s on one of the most significant birding expeditions in history, helping inform contemporary knowledge and conservation of Australian birds. The Goulds described and illustrated over 300 birds that were completely new to science, including the Pied Butcherbird (Cracticusnigrogularis) and the now extinct Paradise Parrot (Psephotelluspulcherrimus). It was an astonishing record of observation and sustained hard work. Continue reading →
Finding a trapped silverbill during lockdown inspired Esha Munshi to create an invaluable record of species in an uncertain world
Esha Munshi, an architect based in Ahmedabad, has “breathed birds” as far back as she can remember. She has travelled all over India on birding trips and has, she says, spotted 1,060 of the 1,400 bird species in the country.
An Indian golden oriole feather, left, and white-throated kingfisher feathers
But it was at home, during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, that she saw an Indian silverbill caught in the protective netting on her balcony, attracting the attention of her cat. Although the bird escaped, some of its feathers were damaged. When Munshi saw the exquisite markings and patterns, she tried to identify the bird, but was struck by how little information there was online.
Sara Niksic, a lover of whales and electronic music, has merged her passions.
In 1971, in the journal Science, two scientists, Roger S. Payne and Scott McVay, published a paper titled “Songs of Humpback Whales.” They began by noting how “during the quiet age of sail, under conditions of exceptional calm and proximity, whalers were occasionally able to hear the sounds of whales transmitted faintly through a wooden hull.” Continue reading →
Installed in several locations on the Allen Street Malls between Broome and Hester Streets, this group exhibition features four artworks by five artists addressing themes of nature. Artists include Elizabeth Knowles and Eric David Laxman, Elaine Lorenz, Judith Peck, and Michael Wolf.
While at Cornell University last month I got my fill of early autumn florals and educational signage. While in the Botanic Gardens I was struck by a floral sculpture, a type of art I am not often moved by. But that one worked. And so, looking through the Art in the Parks section of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation website, the image to the right caught my attention. And scrolling further through that collection I saw the image below, which on a day after hurricane-driven rains in Costa Rica, with the morning sky clear of clouds, hits the spot:
September 25, 2022 to September 10, 2023
Morningside Park, Manhattan
Description:Tierra Fragil, depicts endangered insects and birds with the flowers and plants imperative to their survival. The mural informs and encourages the preservation of familiar species whose presence we may have taken for granted.
Bee bus stops first appeared in the Dutch city of Utrecht. Now the UK is planning for more than 1,000 and there is growing interest across Europe and in Canada and Australia
Butterflies and bees are getting their own transport network as “bee bus stops” start to pop up around UK cities and across Europe. Humble bus shelter roofs are being turned into riots of colour, with the number of miniature gardens – full of pollinator-friendly flora such as wild strawberries, poppies and pansies – set to increase by 50% in the UK by the end of this year. Continue reading →
14 months ago the pandemic still allowed, which is to say forced, creative use of abundant time and limited budget, so I took a day or so to rethink this pile of rocks. It curves around where we park our car and had been covered by a gigantic bush.
build back better
That bush produced spines abundantly and flowers sparingly. While spines may offer ecosystem services I have not yet learned about (other than self-protection for the plant itself), we are focused on regenerating bird habitat, so flowers count more in our calculus. In June, 2021 I cut the bush back to the short branches seen in these photos above.
Spearmint, which can be seen growing straight up on the lower right side of this photo, is for scent, and then for tea; the rest is for the winged folk.
The treachery removed, the slate was blank, and the opportunity to build back better was clear. Hummingbirds and butterflies focus on the bushy abundance covering most of the area.
The bushes producing these orange flowers are slower to fill in
I went through the exercise that Ari described yesterday, trimming back a couple of bushes that hummingbirds and butterflies favor. I cut the branches into one foot long stalks and stuck about 100 of them into the soil in between all those rocks. 14 months later, here is what we have. Difficult to see from the macro view, flowers are constantly available for the pollinators. Every day, dozens of hummingbirds and numerous species of butterflies can be seen in these flowers. With a camera phone I am not well equipped to capture good photos of those, but when someone else does so we will share here.
This year’s photography competition attracted more than 8,000 entries in eight different categories celebrating the natural world: Animal Behavior, Camera Traps, Landscapes, Small World, The Night Sky, Underwater, Urban Wildlife, and Wild Portraits. Contest organizers at Nature TTL were kind enough to share some of the winners and runners-up below. The captions were written by the photographers and lightly edited for style.
Pre-order now. This title will ship from September 8th, 2022.
Experience the force, mystery, and beauty of the ocean and seas through more than 300 images – featuring underwater photography, oceanographic maps and scientific illustrations, as well as paintings, sculptures and popular films.
Oceanography and art collide in this visual celebration of humans’ relationship with the marine world. Continue reading →
We who live in Costa Rica, or other places where orchids are abundant, are fortunate but can only dream of this sort of abundance on display in one location:
February 26 – May 1, 2022
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. | At the Garden
Experience Famed Designer Jeff Leatham’s Bold and Colorful Vision
The dazzling floral creations of Jeff Leatham, famed artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris and floral designer to the stars, return for The Orchid Show’s 19th year. Continue reading →
The strong summer sun melts the top layer of ice on Austfonna, Svalbard’s largest ice cap and Europe’s third-largest glacier, creating myriad gushing waterfalls.
A never-setting sun very quickly muddles one’s ability to tell time. This photograph was taken just before 11 p.m.; without a watch and regular mealtimes I could have easily mistaken it for any other time of day.
To visitors, the Norwegian archipelago can seem both ethereal and eternal. But climate change all but guarantees an eventual collapse of its vulnerable ecosystem.
Mesmerized, I would lean against the railing at the front of the ship, alone, for hours on end. Over the course of 10 days, no two moments were the same. The Arctic world was constantly shifting and changing around me as we slowly made our way through ice and open sea, past whales, walruses, birds and bears.
Except to keep track of mealtimes, watches were irrelevant; in the summer, this far north of the Arctic Circle, the sun never goes anywhere near the horizon. Continue reading →
The last time I posted about a blue insect you could see the blue. In the case of this butterfly above, all the blue is on the upper side of the wings, hidden in this view. To wrap up the thoughts started a couple days ago, I share a few more photos that for me qualify as visual micro-adventures.
Probable identification: one of the 50 or so species of the Trametes genus of fungi
I do not know the species of this fungi, but I find it remarkable that it comes to my attention just after the surprise of seeing a blue morpho butterfly, not commonly seen on this land in Escazu. Remarkable because some of the colors in common, including an unexpected hint of blue.
View to the east from Escazu as sun sets
Likewise, by the end of a day on this land, dusk may not produce a classical awe, but in the context of the various shades of brown it is something to still see some blue.
Waldeinsamkeit is an archaic German term for the feeling of “forest loneliness” (Credit: Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images)
Everybody is at it in Germany. They’re doing it in the trees in the Black Forest. Out in the magical Harz Mountains. In the national parks of Bavaria when silhouetted in the moonlight. And in the city centre woodlands of Berlin and Munich. Continue reading →
Kehinde Wiley’s backlit, hand-painted, stained-glass triptych called “Go” depicts sneaker-clad break dancers who appear to float across a blue sky. The woman’s pointing finger nods to the Sistine Chapel’s “Creation of Adam.” Andrew Moore for The New York Times
In the mid-1980s we lived a few blocks south of Penn Station, and avoided it studiously. If I could right now, I would rush to see it, thanks to Ian Volner’s essay below. I recommend reading it in full because it is neither puff piece nor fashion statement, but a comment on important issues of our day. Like the two essays I referenced earlier by Casey Cep, this essay makes me believe in the importance of this project, as if the project itself is a public statement of intent. The description of the stained glass mural was more than sufficient, but still I had to find an image of it (the one above is from a review I missed a few weeks ago in the New York Times).
The new transit hub redeems the destruction of the original Penn Station. Photograph by Mark Kauzlarich / Bloomberg / Getty
The film noir “Killer’s Kiss,” from 1955, is an almost perfect dud. But because it was filmed on location in New York—and because its director was a twenty-seven-year-old photographer named Stanley Kubrick—it’s worth watching for the first scene and the last, which occur in the same place: the passenger concourse of the original Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, where the protagonist, having escaped from shadowy thugs, waits impatiently for his lover. Kubrick captures the hero from a low angle, and, overhead, the arched trusses holding up the station’s glass-and-iron roof seem impossibly high. The building looks very dirty, but the ambient soot in the air catches the sunshine as it streams down from above, making the light appear more abundant, almost solid. Continue reading →
To the left you can see yesterday’s viewership of our posts, by country. Viewership has recently been low, for obvious reasons. It has made me wonder whether we should take a hiatus. My counter-thought is, if on a day like yesterday, just one person visited this site and found something of value, we should continue. As of today there have been 696,713 views of all of our posts since we started in mid-2011. Yesterday someone viewed a post I distinctly remember writing some months ago, which brought a smile to my face. And just now I was downloading a file using WeTransfer, and this story presented itself, and it seems a perfect companion piece:
For 22 years, 15 Rwandan women have been turning their surroundings and their memories into beautiful textile art. Founded in 1997 by Christiane Rwagatare a short time after the genocide of 1994, the Savane Rutongo-Kabuye workshop offered a distraction, a source of income and a creative avenue to those who had been affected. The workshop has gone from strength to strength, and thanks to educator-turned-curator Juliana Meehan, the embroideries of the women of Rwanda have now been exhibited and seen across the US. Alex Kahl spoke to Christiane and Juliana to explore their uplifting story.
Due to her home country Rwanda’s turbulent history, Christiane Rwagatare lived much of her early life in exile. When she returned in 1994 in the aftermath of the genocide, the country had been devastated. “It was a very difficult time,” she says. In 1997, when she was visiting a relative in the small village of Rutongo, she saw women selling hand embroidered linens on the roadside, and felt an immediate sense of hope and possibility. At this moment, she recalled all that she had learned about art while in Europe, and knew she could contribute something positive. She announced that she would be starting an embroidery workshop, and asked that anyone interested come to the village church the next day. She was shocked when more than 100 women arrived with samples of their work.
Projects to reduce grass cutting and increase the diversity of plants and wildlife along Britain’s roads are having dramatic results
In Sandford, Wareham, wildflowers are part of an initiative to provide an attractive habitat for butterflies and insects, while helping to cut the costs of roadside mowing. Photograph: Eva Worobiec/Alamy
In 2014, Giles Nicholson was battling the growing year from hell. A mild winter followed by a warm, wet spring had turbocharged a ferocious mass of cow parsley, nettles and dense grass along the hundreds of miles of road his team maintains for Dorset council. Austerity meant there was barely enough money to pay for repeated cuttings to hold back the matted swards. Complaints poured in about messy roadsides.
“[The machinery] wouldn’t go through it,” says Nicholson, recalling the overspilling verges. Continue reading →
People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.
Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.
There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights. Continue reading →