Posts Tagged 'plants'

Breaking: Monarch Sighted in Brooklyn

Danaus plexippusI saw my second Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of the year today. This was my first in Brooklyn; in Brooklyn Bridge Park, feeding on Joe-Pye Weed (Spotted JPW, I believe, Eupatorium maculatum).

As you probably know, we have done quite a number on this spectacular species, through deforestation in Mexico, reducing its food crops further north in the U.S., and poisoning its habitat everywhere; such blows make them even more susceptible to external pressures, like severe weather, in particular the drought in Texas (“external” if you don’t count our carbon-dirty hands in disrupting traditional weather patterns through global warming).

Here are some graphs of the shocking declines and here’s an interview with a biologist whose entire professional career has been about them disappearing. There’s nothing personal, of course, in this drive to extinguish one more species; we’ve done it to the whole planet, and even ourselves.

Can you do anything to keep this remarkable animal, which has a multi-generational, continent-spanning migration, around for your grandchildren? You can plant milkweed, stop the wide-spread poisoning of the environment through herbicides and pesticides, and drive less.. say what? The field-to-field cropping of corn to meet the ethanol demand means that “weedy” edges have been plowed under. We must all change our lives.


Perithemis teneraI was enjoying the life above the Duckweed (Lemnaceae) recently, marveling that I’ve never seen so many Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera).Pachydiplax longipennisThere were also a few Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis), making more Blue Dashers.A damselfly of unknown provenance was depositing eggs.

And then, along the edge of the lake, some disturbance from below. There was an agitated simmering, not quite bubbling. I wondered what it might be. Then, rising, a mass of little black fish, tightly clumped together at the surface, swarming over each other, some half out of the water momentarily. They were feasting on something. fish The individual fish visible on the edges of this mass had serious whiskers, barbels, making me think of some kind of catfish. What the hell, I took the plunge.fishI’m taking a semi-wild guess that these are Black Bullheads (Ameiurus melas); what do you think?fishThe barbels are flush to the sides here.LemnaceaeAs an added benefit of my open-handed catch and release, the underside of the Duckweed, some of the smallest flowering plants anywhere, is revealed as purple.

Local edibles

Rheum rhabarbarumI’ve eaten a lot of rhubarb in my time, usually with strawberries. I’ve never seen it gone to seed, though, before now. Rheum rhabarbarum.Ribes rubrumIn the same community garden, Red Currants! Ribes rubrum.Vaccinium corymbosumElsewhere in the borough, High-bush Blueberry, almost ripe! Unfortunately, gleaners usually pick these too soon, cheating themselves (and me!). Vaccinium corymbosum.

More Sumac

Rhus typhinaStaghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) in exuberant fuzziness.


RhusThe flowers of sumac (genus Rhus) are astonishingly small.

More Galls

gall2The world of galls is vast: I don’t know what these are, but they evidently darken into these rather glossy, bean-like structures:gall1gall3Another. It’s just a splotchy discoloration on the top of the leaf, but underneath there’s some interest.

Plants and other lifeforms

Vaccinium angustifoliumA few more from Maine. Here’s Low-bush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) in flower. I’m mad for those little Maine blueberries, which I get frozen and eat all winter.Trientalis borealisStarflower (Trientalis borealis).Cornus canadensisBunchberry (Cornus canadensis), a wildflower relation of Dogwood.Arisaema triphyllumJack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) needs to be revealed. Hiding its light under a bushel. This is a plant I’ve never run across locally, and more is the pity.maine2A lichen? Fomitopsis pinicolaRed-belted or banded polyphore (Fomitopsis pinicola).witches broomA fine example of witch’s broom, whereby something (fungi, insects, mites, nematodes, viruses, etc. are all possibilities) causes the plant to grow wildly thusly. They are variations on the principal of the gall: another life form hijacking the plant’s own growth systems. In this case, the intruding element interferes with the hormone that limits bud growth, and the tree goes wild.

Ball Moss

Tillandsia recurvataBall moss (Tillandsia recurvata) isn’t actually a moss; it’s a flowering plant. This particular example was found on the ground after it had flowered. This plant is in the same genus as the famous dripping Spanish Moss (and both are in the same family as the pineapple). These not-mosses are epiphytes, aerial plants that attach to, but do not parasitize, trees — particularly liveoaks (Quercus virginiana and Q. fusiformis) — and even some fences and power lines.Tillandsia recurvataI was really intrigued by these. Those photographed in hand were found on the ground (I try to be as non-interventionist as possible), presumably snapped off in the wind. The plant likes dead wood best of all. I wonder how long they survive after hitting the ground?Tillandsia recurvataHere’s one above.


Yesterday, in Brooklyn Bridge Park:Mergus serratorA lone female Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator).Mergus serratorAs a Man of Hair, I do appreciate the random crest feathers.Podiceps grisegenaUnexpectedly, a Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena). I last ran into one in February. The red of the neck, breeding plumage, looks like it is just starting to come in. The bird was spending more time underwater than afloat.Larus delawarensisNote the rather startling red-orange mouth of this Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), cleaning up after a human’s mess. The gull’s thick neck is a handy storage system for gulped food; the other half of the baguette’s already in there. Anas platyrhynchosFemale Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) hunkered down, but definitely alert to my presence. Male nearby. Nesting soon? This spot’s probably too exposed, but the species does nest in the park. Zonotrichia albicollisA White-thoated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) kicking up lunch.Salix discolorAnd blooms! Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), that early bud that…gets the worm of spring.

Sumac Robin

Turdus migratorius10* yesterday. This is one of four American Robins who were scouring the Sumac berries. Not all Robins head south for the winter. These could also be birds from further north, this their south. Wintering Robins tend to flock and change their dietary habits, since there are few earthworms to be had now.


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