Posts Tagged 'trees'

Thoreau Thursday

Liriodendron tulipiferaThe purple, duck-billed buds of Liriodendron tulipifera. These are just over 2cm long and were taken from some recent windfall branches.

Thoreau seems to have become acquainted with “tulip trees” on Staten Island, where he lived from May-December of 1843, having gone there to tutor Ralph Waldo Emerson’s brother’s children. I read in one source that that there were no specimens of this species in his native Concord. The tree’s range does go into Massachusetts and Vermont, even Canada in some sources, so I wonder if they were all cut down by HDT’s time.

I needed a background, and Leslie Day’s Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City came in hand. This book does not actually include Tuliptrees because they are very rarely found on our streets. There was one right around the corner of my old Cobble Hill apartment. If you remember, that was where I found this Eastern Tiger Swallow caterpillar, which feeds on this tree.

Tomorrow is a sort of national or general strike against the extremism of the Trump regime. Not sure how much headwind they have, but Strike4Democracy has more details. Backyard & Beyond will join this action.

Meanwhile, March 8 is scheduled as a Day Without Women.

Until then, folks should read Engler & Engler’s This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-first Century.

Barking Mad Monday

FagusThe distinctive bark of Beech (Fagus), its typical smoothness broken up by age.CeltisHackberry (Celtis). On the young trees especially, these nobby, layered, butte-like protuberances are characteristic. The red hairs of a Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) vine find them a good place to anchor.HalesiaThis is a mature Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina).AesculusAnd this strange stuff is Fetid Buckeye (Aesculus glabra), better known as Ohio Buckeye. It does have a high odor. This beast was recently cut down in Prospect. Aesculus glabraSure looked fine inside. Unless this center of the bole means something…FagusAnd then there was this Beech, which toppled and took out some fencing and a swath of bamboo. The interior here is big enough for me with my arms akimbo. If not two of me, which, admittedly, might be a bit much.

Check out theorist of civil resistance Gene Sharp’s famous list of 198 nonviolent actions you can use/mix and match/collect ’em all.


Oxydendrum arboreumThe dried five-part fruits of Oxydendrum arboreum, fallen from the tree.

This is a great tree for fall colors, both the leaves and the fruits. One guide I have says its range is from NJ south. There are a couple young ones in the Native Flora Garden at NYBG and a stellar oldster in the nearby Rock Garden. There’s a magnificent specimen in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. Eight are mapped on the Chaya & Barnard Central Park Entire. But does anybody have this clearly southern tree in their non-park woods around here?

While the tree’s common name suggests its unpalatability — for people who chew leaves — the honey that bees make from its flowers is supposed to be transporting. I don’t recall ever having any.


Part of our problem is that the Democrats are deeply mired in a corrupt system. The governor of my state, for instance, is sometimes touted as a 2020 Democratic contender. Andrew Cuomo shares funders with Trump: Paulson, Mnuchin, Icahn, Viola. In the past, various Trumps have given him money, too. Cuomo very much represents the Democrat style: he advertises a liberal social agenda while, sotto voce, carries on the neoliberal economic model. The end result of that model, the subservience of democracy to wealth, will inevitably result in only the rich being able to enjoy the expanded rights he claims he supports.

Betula Lenticels

Betula lentaLenticels are pores in the bark of trees (and some plants and some fruits) through which trees exchange gasses. Many lenticels are raised dots, but birches, like this Black (Betula lenta) have scar-like horizontal ones. There’s a danger with all these passages inside though; they can also be the route of disease.

B. lenta is also known as Cherry, Sweet, Spice, Mahogany Birch. Oil of wintergreen used to be extracted from the sap and leaves. Wintergreen flavor today is mostly artificial. This is a native from southern Quebec down to Georgia and into Ohio, a character-ridden tree of the mature Appalachian forest.

[Shadow of a neighboring branch for effect.]

“What the Hell is Wrong with Senate Democrats?” You shouldn’t be surprised to see Democrats in the Senate vote for Trump’s wrecking crew. They want to be seen as people who can “work” with these monsters. Seen by whom? The Democrats play by some obscure rule of collegial civility that the GOP stomped to death years ago. All they can do is match up the boot-marks on their faces for the next kick. They are, after all, one side of the ruling rot so surgically elucidated by Zephyr Teachout.

I heard three U.S. Senators at yesterday’s rally at Battery Park against the white supremacist Bannon’s unconstitutional executive order: Gillibrand, Schumer, and Booker, (they were rhetorically impressive in ascending order), but not one pledged to throw a sabot into the wheels of the Senate, which is the only way a minority party can wield power.

After all, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Dirty Coal) used cloture 900 times to stymie the Democrats in the upper house during the Obama years. This former aid to Harry Reid explains how the unanimous consent thing works in that ridiculous and anti-democratic institution and how withholding it can gum up the works. Not stop them, unfortunately, but we need every thing we can get. It’s obstructionist and cut-throat and Democrats had better start using it. Every god-damned day.


Liriodendron tulipiferaRemember that Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) we got such close-up views of back in the spring?Liriodendron tulipiferaThis is what it looks like now.Liriodendron tulipiferaThese “cone-like aggregates of samaras” as Core and Ammons put it in Woody Plants in Winter, persevere. Liriodendron tulipifera

The hypocrisy would gag a snake, but the Republicans are beyond any shame (and certainly any claim to the Christianity so many of them make such a show of wrapping themselves in). On Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, they dutifully parroted “#NeverForget” while rallying around Trump’s Muslim ban.* Families were wrenched apart in airports around the country, people deported, thousands of lives disrupted in the chaos before the temporary stay was granted last night. Legal residents with green cards and dual citizenship were been taken into custody, while refugees whose resettlement process has taken years were sent back. To where? A twitter account documenting the names of passengers of the SS St. Louis, forbidden from docking in America in 1939, made it especially poignant. Because of American bigotry then — the pervasive anti-semitism, the white supremacy of immigration quotas — those passengers were condemned to die in the Nazi death factory. O, my America!

It must be a coincidence that the three middle eastern countries not on Trump’s blacklist (Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia) are all places where he has investments. And Saudi Arabia, is also, of course, the source and poisonous funder of radical Wahhabism; it was also the country of origin of most of the 9/11 attackers. So the notion that this is about “extreme vetting” to prevent terrorism is a vicious racist lie. (On vetting, btw, it already takes years to get refugees in; green cards take years as well.) Meanwhile, mass murderers in this country are overwhelmingly white native-born males armed with the help of the NRA and its Republican tools.

*As a special treat for his neo-nazi followers, Trump’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance left out any mention of Jews.

In Winter

Aesculus hippocastanumThe dried fruit capsule of the Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is distinctively prickly. weedsI just started a class on Native Flora in Winter at the New York Botanical Garden. I hope to share some of what I learn in the coming weeks. Let’s start with: the mints (Lamiaceae) are one of the easiest families to identify in winter; they have square stems, opposite branching, and smell minty-great.

But in the meantime, the horsey Aesculus is generally unmistakable, littering the ground with conkers and spiky capsules. But should you not find any of those trouts in the buttermilk, look to the tree’s bud scars: they are horse-shoe shaped with seven “nails.” This classic park tree is also an introduced species, so it will not be not covered in the course. But I just love those prickly capsules.Gymnocladus dioicusHere is a North American native, a Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus). But, on 5th Avenue near Green-Wood, somewhat out of its historical Old Northwest range. This youngster probably came from the nursery with this cargo of lichens. Lichens are highly sensitive to air pollution, so, alas, they may not linger on this busy avenue. Note those characteristic long furrows. They won’t be so pronounced in maturity (knock wood), but they certainly are in youth.

And now for some highlights of the Women’s March(es). And some of the signs, some of them not at all pretty.


Diospyros virginianaThe calyx of the American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is this beautiful cross shape. Diospyros virginianaA few stay on the tree as the fruits come down, but most fall with the fruit. Diospyros virginianaThere’s still some fruit on the trees. Most of it, though, is on the ground, and some of that is well beyond eating stage. We need more possums!

(My intelligence community tells me that the “Date Plum” Asian persimmon (D. lotus) at NYBG holds onto its calyces, giving the tree a tiny-star-studded look.)


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