Weed Whacked in NYC -- where did my garden go?

This morning I took Daniel Atha of the New York Botanical Garden to 87th Street to show him two really good local plant finds, so that he could take samples to press for the NYBG Herbarium.

The two plants were the Scarlet Creeper:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/16286168

And the White Morning Glory:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/16230038

Both species have only ever been recorded once before in NYC. The new occurrences I found meant that these two species are probably now established in NYC, whereas the first occurrences could have been just "waifs", of no lasting significance.

Alas... when we arrived there, I was astonished to discover that the entire very long raised bed had been weed-whacked right down to the ground. It had been just fine on Friday morning and now early on Monday morning -- nothing left standing. This raised bed had over 65 plant species growing in it, all spontaneous -- an amazing diversity. A large proportion of the plants were native species, i.e. what I would consider to be wildflowers. There were no garden plants in this raised bed at all -- it seems that nothing had ever been deliberately planted here, or if so, it had all died out long ago.

Fortunately the person who weed-whacked the bed had not dug up the soil. I hope they have no intention of planting garden plants in there. Perhaps the weed-whacking was just a "fall clean-up" by some garden company that has a contract with the building?

If they now leave it alone, probably most of the plants will stage a come-back, either this year during the remaining warm fall weather, or failing that, the plants will hopefully come back again next year. I am sure that most of the plants had dropped seeds into the soil.

I do have iNat observations/photos of all the plant species I saw here, but the Herbarium material would have been a permanent formal museum record.

Ah well, such is life! We need to educate people that biodiversity is GOOD. Do not shun a fine diversity of spontaneous plants.

Posted by susanhewitt susanhewitt, September 10, 2018 12:16

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Hairy Crabweed Fatoua villosa

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

September 5, 2018 10:09 AM EDT

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Dicots Class Magnoliopsida

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

September 10, 2018 10:39 AM EDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Dicots Class Magnoliopsida

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

September 10, 2018 10:39 AM EDT

Comments

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That is so awful and disappointing, Susan! You are right in noting that people need to be educated about the richness of the "fine diversity of spontaneous plants." But, to most people, what you documented were weeds and looked unsightly next to the tailored and universally boring beds of begonias and impatiens. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal, the gist of which was that very few people can identify plants in their world. It's called: "Rhododendron? Hydrangea? America Doesn't Know Anymore." Additionally , It states, "The country has a growing case of 'plant blindness'- a term used by botanists to describe the inability to identify basic plants. Even botanists struggle."

Posted by sadawolk about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Susan, I will keep my eye out for these 2 plants. Must have been shocking to find these plants thriving on one day and gone the next. Very unfortunate.

Posted by spritelink about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Noooooo!

Posted by anudibranchmom about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks Sara and Janet. I think the journalist who wrote about Plant Blindness may possibly have attended last month's conference at NYBG, where Daniel spent 5 or 10 minutes talking about that very subject.

Yes, it is possible that either of you might come across one, or both, of those two plants. They are both in flower right now and were in flower in late August, but no earlier than that. They both have leaves like the Common Morning Glory and would be hard to notice unless they are in flower.

In the Scarlet Creeper, the flowers are not large, and quite narrow, but they are a brilliant orange-red in color, and therefore eye-catching among green foliage. As for the White Morning Glory, the flowers are surprisingly small and delicate, and therefore look unfamiliar compared with most other bindweeds.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks Robin. I guess most of the plants will grow again, and some species will grow well between now and the first frost, which is usually around November 11th -- two months away.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Yikes! I just saw your before and after photographs, and I realize how rich the plant life was in this bed and how many plants I learned from your explorations! Great loss . . .

Posted by sadawolk about 2 years ago (Flag)
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There were over 65 species in that bed, not counting mosses and a few grasses I did not ID. Plus, no doubt, some extra plants I did not notice for whatever reason -- some of which may just have been too far back for me to see.

However, the seeds are still there on the ground for next year, and quite a few plants will grow from the roots, some of them starting immediately, but I very much doubt the two rare Ipomoea will be able to grow enough to flower again this year. And next August feels like a long way away.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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I cringe at the loss of plant diversity along the roadsides here in the south. They have a pretty aggressive roadside herbicide program. Huge tanker trucks driving for miles spraying. I have "lost" many good plant spots to this.

Posted by rogerbirkhead about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Oh that's terrible. Using herbicide seems like total overkill.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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One of my favorite blog entries from @scottking :
https://ofbooksandbugs.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/burning-books/

I too wish folks would recognize the beauty and awe-inspiring aspects of biodiversity.

Posted by sambiology about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks Sam, that is a wonderful piece.

In my talk in August at the New York Botanical Garden I mentioned how most people only love their pets, and their indoor plants and garden plants, and think the words "weed" and "bug" mean something ugly, repulsive, and perhaps dangerous in some way.

I think children need introducing to the glories of biodiversity early in life. I was lucky that I grew up in England at the tail end of the educational fashion for having young children engage in "nature study".

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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I'm optimistic about the future though -- I think that green spaces are becoming more welcomed and appreciated (at least, it feels like this where I live). Hopefully these little 'pocket refuges' will maintain some of the areas where kiddos (and adults!) can nourish their curiosity about nature. iNat can be a tool that bridges this gap as well. :)

Posted by sambiology about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Yes, in NYC I am now seeing a few wildflower gardens and native species plantings for decoration, and Randall's Island has two restored salt marshes, a freshwater marsh, and two wildflower meadows that are all just terrific. Randall's also has 81 sports fields -- children from so many of the inner city schools are brought to Randalls not only to play sports, but to learn about nature.

If you ever saw the 70s movie, "French Connection", there are a few scenes filmed on Randalls as it was back then. It was the worst kind of trashed landscape imaginable.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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How disappointing. Very bad luck. People always like that neat and tidy lawn look - often like an obsession. Looks like your enjoying your research though!

Posted by sarka about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks Sarka. I have been pretty much disabled for 6 months, not really able to walk, and getting around in taxis and on a knee scooter. Therefore the smaller city parks and all non-gardened patches have become (even more so than usual) my most available and accessible nature source.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Will you be getting better soon? I expect so! Please. Best wishes.

Posted by sarka about 2 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks again Sarka. I am hoping to be OK before the snow and ice starts in the NYC winter. But Achilles tendinitis is extremely slow to heal, so I will just have to see how it goes. It could be a year from start to finish.

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 years ago (Flag)
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None of the interesting weeds grew back before the frosts started. But maybe they will come back again this year.

Posted by susanhewitt over 1 year ago (Flag)

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