Journal archives for October 2020

October 01, 2020

Spotlight on weeds: Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus

I was born in and grew up in Hayes, Bromley, Kent, a southeastern suburb of London, England. All through my childhood, in our backyard, Petty Spurge was a common, and aggressive, weed species. I asked my mother what it was called. My mother had grown up in a village in Devon, England, and being a country girl, she knew, and had taught me, the names of about 20 or 30 different wildflowers and weeds, but she did not know the name of this one.

As a kid I used to help in the garden, including pulling out the weeds, so I pulled these out, but I always thought that this plant was attractive and exotic-looking, with its pale green foliage and four-fold symmetry.

Here is an observation of the plant from Downe, Kent, about 5 miles from where I grew up, in a village I often visited because Charles Darwin used to live there:

After I left home, and after I started living in the US, I had not really seen this weed again, or perhaps never noticed it, until September 2018, when to my surprise I came across it in Encinitas, Southern California, near the motel where we stay there almost every year. I discovered it was not only present, but common. I made 5 observations of the species, including this one:

Then in the following month, October 2018, never having seen this plant in NYC before despite all my intense iNatting, I was amazed to find eight examples growing wild as weeds in a flower bed in Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan. I live on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a few miles away from Battery Park. Of course I made iNat observations of all the plants, including this one:

In June of 2019 I went back to look for the species in Battery Park, and found several examples of it, including this one:

In July 2019, I also found one plant in Bowling Green, which is a small and venerable park just north of Battery Park:

In September 2019, when my husband and I went to California again, I photographed 15 examples of the plant in Encinitas, California. And November 2019 I photographed six plants in Battery Park, Manhattan again.

During 2020 I was not able to find the plant in Battery Park, and I did not come across it anywhere else in NYC, despite the fact that I look very carefully everywhere I go for interesting weeds.

However, Daniel Atha of NYBG has found Euphorbia peplus, once Bronx Park near the NY Botanical Garden in June 2019 (he collected that one):

And Daniel also found the plant once in Central Park, in July 2020:

The Wikipedia article on Petty Spurge,

When it was accessed in October 2020, informs us that:

"Euphorbia peplus (petty spurge,[1][2] radium weed,[2] cancer weed,[2] or milkweed)[2], is a species of Euphorbia, native to most of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, where it typically grows in cultivated arable land, gardens, and other disturbed land.[1][3][4]"

"Outside of its native range it is very widely naturalised and often invasive, including in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and other countries in temperate and sub-tropical regions.[1]"

Posted on October 01, 2020 19:08 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 2 comments | Leave a comment

Spotlight on weeds: three species in the genus Phyllanthus

I knew nothing about the family Phyllanthaceae (which was formerly a subfamily in the Euphorbiaceae), and I had never knowingly seen a plant in that family, until April 25th 2017, when I first noticed a plant which iI believe is the species Phyllanthus amarus, in Charlestown, the capital of Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis, Leeward Islands, West Indies:

At that point in time I did not know what it was, but with major assistance from two other talented and hardworking iNatters, (thank you @nathantaylor, and thank you @adorantes) we were able to put an ID on it.

The common name of this species is "Gale of the Wind". I wonder if it got that name because, like many of the species in that genus, the flowers and fruits hang under the leaf in a way that strikes one as very peculiar the first time you see it -- maybe the "Gale" that blew was so strong that it simply blew the flowers and fruits completely round onto the underside?

Once I had seen one of these Gale of the Wind plants, I started noticing them all over the place on Nevis. Two years later in 2019 on Nevis, I photographed 28 of the plants.

Then in December 2019, my husband and I were staying on the island of Sanibel, Lee County, Florida. I photographed two Phyllanthus plants which were growing in an unkempt roadside verge near Blue Dolphin Cottages, where we stay when we are there. I still don't really have IDs on those two.

They both have flowers and fruit on long stems on top of the leaves like P. tenellus, so maybe that is what they are:

Then this year, in March of 2020, during an unfortunately very abbreviated stay (thanks to a sudden pandemic shut-down of the country) at Oualie Beach Hotel on Nevis, St Kitts & Nevis, West Indies, I photographed more Phyllanthus amara around the hotel grounds while we were in voluntary quarantine there, including this plant:

Also on the hotel grounds, on March 23, by dint of a lot of searching, I was able to find another species of Phyllanthus -- one plant of Phyllanthus tenellus, the Mascarene Island Leaf Flower:

During August of this year, 2020, and back in New York City, in the French Garden part of the Conservatory Garden, in Central Park, New York City, I discovered that several plants of Chamberbitter, Phyllanthus urinaria, were growing as weeds among the immature Korean Chrysanthemum plants. I made 12 observations of the plants on several different days, including these observations:

Then finally, on September 20th and 28th 2020, in New York City, first in Tompkins Square Park, and then at the edge of a flower bed on 59th Street near 12th Avenue, I found in each place, one plant of the Mascarene Island Leaf Flower, Phyllanthus tenellus, the same species that I had been able to find one example of on Nevis, back in March of this same year.

Tompkins Square Park:

59th Street on the West Side:

Daniel Atha was able to find three of the plants in that bed on 59th Street, and so he took one of them to press for the NYBG herbarium, because it is important to make a permanent record of this species which was not known before from NYC or NY State.

He got me to write a little paper about it (with him as co-author) which we have submitted already and it should be out very soon, probably in the "New York Flora Association Quarterly Newsletter, Fall 2020, Volume 31, Issue 4 pages xx - xx.".

Now I feel that I am starting to get acquainted with the interesting genus, Phyllanthus. According to the Wikipedia article there are somewhere between 750 and 1200 species worldwide in this genus, so I guess there are plenty of possibilities out there for meeting more of them!

Posted on October 01, 2020 19:46 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 16, 2020

Marine Life on Orchard Beach, NYC

A dear old friend of mine drove me to Orchard Beach in Pelham Bay Park (which is in the Bronx, on Long Island Sound) yesterday afternoon for two or three hours. I spent most of the time on the beach itself, looking for marine life. I did pretty well considering. I found two seaweeds that were new to me, at least new since I have been on iNat, although I had actually seen them before in my life before I signed up with iNat.

I would like to visit this beach again after a storm that blows in from the east, when I imagine a lot more good stuff would be thrown up. I would also like to investigate further the salt marsh areas beyond the extreme north end of the beach -- there are rocks there too, and even a few small tide pools. It would also be great to walk the foot paths of Twin Islands and Hunters Island.

The beach dates from the 1930s, and it was a Robert Moses project. Millions of cubic yards of sand from Sandy Hook and the Rockaways were brought in to create it. It is an impressively huge curving beach, and the views across the Sound are lovely.

People call Orchard Beach the "Bronx Riviera", and I can certainly see why.

Here is what I found.


Atlantic Horseshoe crab


Asian Shore Crab
Northern Acorn Barnacle

Polychaete worms:

Trumpet worms, the funnel-shaped sand casings
And the "chimneys" and egg masses of a large burrowing species


Kelp Lace Bryozoan



Atlantic Ribbed Mussel
Blue Mussel
Common Jingle
Eastern Oyster
Chestnut Astarte
Atlantic Surfclam
Atlantic Jacknife Clam
Baltic Macoma
Northern Dwarf-Tellin
Softshell Clam


Flat Periwinkle
Convex Slippersnail
Common Atlantic Slippersnail
Shark Eye
Spotted Moonsnail -- new to iNat
Northern Moon Snail
Atlantic Oyster Drill
Knobbed Whelk
Eastern Mudsnail
Three-lined mudsnail


Brown Algae:

Bladder Wrack
Knotted Wrack -- new to me on iNat

Red Algae:

Red puff balls
Several other species

Green Algae:

Dead men's fingers (Codium) -- new to me on iNat
Broadleaf Sea Lettuce
And others, including a possible Ulvaria obscura?

I photographed a dead fish which is an Atlantic Menhaden. I also photographed Ringed-bill Gulls -- no surprise there.

My best terrestrial finds were a nice big Bess Beetle (a Horned Passalus Beetle), and a plant of Black Swallow-Wort. Both were new to me.

Posted on October 16, 2020 13:19 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 42 observations | 11 comments | Leave a comment