Archive for January 2012

Virtual Guide to Native Ferns at the Mt. Cuba Center

January 28, 2012

This is one of a series of videos and information about the native plants at the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware.  Of course many of the plants are native to New York as well. Watch out or you may be spending a lot of time delving into all of this great information!

2012 New York Flora Association Research Awards Available

January 28, 2012

Hey students and NYFA members: NYFA has money available to help you with your botanical research in New York. Applications due March 2, 2012.
For more information see: NYFA Research Awards.

Maybe you need funds to travel to the field. Photo: Steve Young

New York State Protected Plants of Forests Book

January 28, 2012

The Wetlands Trust and Upper Susquehanna Coalition announce the State Protected Plants of Forests in NYS book by Dudley Raynal and Don Leopold  is now for sale (for $7, includes shipping) on The Wetlands Trust website.

Aaarrrrrg, Learn About the Pirate Botanist.

January 27, 2012

Here is an interesting feature from NPR that shows how intrepid we botanists are. CLICK HERE to access the article.

Winter Botany Workshops Slated at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Columbia County

January 17, 2012
Saturday, February 4th 2012, 1-4pm, Hawthorne Valley Farm (Creekhouse)
Winter Botany Workshop, Part 1 (co-sponsored by the Columbia Land Conservancy)
Conrad and Claudia Vispo will help you learn to identify the most common woody plant species in the winter. We will start with a brief in-door preparatory session and then go outside for some practice in the field.The workshop is free, but space is limited, so please register with or (518) 672-7994.

Saturday, February 18th 2012, 1-4pm, Greenport Public Conservation Area in Hudson
Winter Botany Workshop, Part 2 (co-sponsored by the Columbia Land Conservancy)
Conrad and Claudia Vispo will help you learn to identify the most common woody plant species that can be observed at Greenport in the winter. The workshop is free, but space is limited, so please register with or (518) 672-7994.

If You Care About Chara, Read This Post

January 11, 2012

Chara is a genus of algae that occurs in waters of high pH and is also known by the common name stonewort. Perhaps you have seen this light tan, pondweed-like, branching algae clogging the waters of calcareous ponds, streams, and fens (see photo). It’s brittle texture results from a covering of calcium carbonate precipitate and calcium salts in the cell walls. See more about this interesting plant in the Wikipedia entry and the web page of Dr. Kenneth Karol at the New York Botanical Garden.

Chara filling the water of a marsh in Monroe County. Photo Kim Smith.

Dr. Karol has been working with Characeae for several years now. He uses the two volume 1964 monograph of Chara by Wood and Imahori for identifications. Dr. Karol states that this is an excellent monograph but the broad species concepts and numerous subspecific taxa make it difficult to work with. Given that this is the most recent comprehensive work on Characeae, he has a long-term goal of revising the monograph and updating the keys. If you would like to help him with his work, he needs specimens! If you come across this unique algae in the field, collect a specimen (with the permission of the landowner) and send it to him at the following address:

Kenneth G. Karol, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics
2900 Southern Boulevard
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126 USA

Phone: 718-817-8615

New Book: Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast, A Natural History

January 10, 2012

Author Carol Gracie contacted us to let us know that her spring wildflower book is nearing publication. It’s now available for pre-publication ordering on where you can click  “Look Inside” to browse parts of it.  The forward is by NYFA board member Eric Lamont.  Carol co-authored Wildflowers of the Field and Forest with Steven Clemants.  This book will be an invaluable addition to the flora of the Northeast and to all who are curious about the natural history of our beautiful spring flora.

Two New Tree Identification Apps

January 8, 2012

More and more smartphone apps are being written about plant identification and the public is looking for them so they can use their smartphones and tablets in the field instead of bulky manuals. Two new apps for the iPhone are about tree idenfication, one from the Arbor Day Foundation called What tree is that? (also available to use on their website) and another one called TreeID by MEDL mobile and created by Jason M. Siniscalchi, PhD. Both apps are good but they differ by the types of keys they use.

“What tree is that?” is a dichotomous key (asking a series of questions to narrow down the choice) as seen below.  There is a separate glossary with some illustrations as well as illustrations that accompany the key choices.

After the species is keyed down to the final choice the app shows a drawing of the branches with leaves and fruits plus some natural history information. See below for white ash. You can see the full list of trees included in case you think your species may not be in the key. The My Trees tab allows you to choose to post the location of your tree which helps in their creation of a crowd-sourced tree database.

TreeID is a random access key that allows you to use any of the 31 plant characters available about the tree.  Below is a what their key looks like. Each character has an illustrated glossary (you click on the question mark) that you can use to see what the character choices look like, a nice feature.

When a tree is identified it shows an infomation-rich page about the tree that includes a range map and photos of the leaf (many with fall color) bark and flowers and/or fruit. It also shows the silhouette of the tree architecture which is handy.

I have not tried these apps in the field to any extent and field testing them will be the key to their usefulness.  They look promising and I would recommend getting both of them to use since they approach identification in different ways.  If you happen to use them, leave a comment in our comments section about your experience. We look forward to more of these apps, especially of groups like ferns, fern allies, and orchids that are well defined and popular with many people. Dick Mitchell produced a fern key for computers many years ago.  Something like that is ripe for turning into an app. For more information on other Apple plant ID apps CLICK HERE for an earlier post – Steve Young

Botany Comes to New York City Theater

January 7, 2012

Theater artist Jim Findlay has created a new production entitled BOTANICA that examines the relationship between plants and humans. Please visit their website at for further information about the production and the artistic team.

They are  offering a $5 discount to NYFA blog readers for upcoming performances of BOTANICA from January 28 thru February 25, 2012 at 3LD Art & Technology Center in Lower Manhattan (

BOTANICA is a creepy futuristic black comedy that examines our complicated and interdependent relationship to plant life. Sealed in a human terrarium, two unorthodox botanists and a caretaker unleash a flood of unusual findings and overturn the constraints of science and social norms. The discount offer is valid for tickets purchased before 1/27/12.

Tickets can be purchased HERE. To get the $5 discount, tickets must be purchased before 1/27/12 with the discount code “Green.”

University of Florida Tropical Botany Course Offered Again in 2012

January 6, 2012

I took this course back in the early 1980s and it is one of the best courses in plant taxonomy that you can find.  It’s an intensive course but it takes place in one of the most beautiful areas in the country, surrounded by tropical and subtropical vegetation. Dr. Judd does a superb job and the field trips go to some of the most interesting natural areas of southern Florida. – Steve Young

The University of Florida, Department of Botany and The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, in collaboration with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, will offer an intensive, in-residence course/workshop on the systematics of tropical plants, in Coconut Grove, Florida, from June 25 – July 13, 2012.

Instructor:  Dr. Walter S. Judd (Course Director, Department of Biology, 220 Bartram Hall, PO Box 118525, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8525; e-mail:; phone: 352-273-1983; fax: 352-392-3704).

The Course: Tropical Botany is an intensive course of study in the biology and systematics of tropical plants.  Subject matter will be largely based on the extensive holdings of tropical vascular plants at Fairchild Tropical Garden, The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, and the Montgomery Botanical Center   These gardens have the largest living collections of tropical plants in the United States.  Additionally, field trips will be made to the Florida Everglades, the Florida Keys, and adjacent natural areas.  The natural vegetation of South Florida, which includes littoral and dry land habitats, mixed tropical hardwood hammocks, pinelands, and mangrove communities, will introduce students to the diversity of tropical vegetation.  The object of the course is to provide advanced students and/or professionals with a detailed coverage of the systematics, phylogeny, diversity of structure, and economic botany of tropical vascular plants.  Questions concerning the course should be addressed to Dr. Judd.

Credit-hours:  Tropical Botany is taught as a workshop sponsored by The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, with the collaboration of Fairchild Tropical Garden.  If academic credit is desired students may enroll in either BOT 6935 (graduate) or BOT 4935 (advanced undergraduates) and receive 2 (or more) semester credit-hours.  These courses are offered by the Department of Biology, University of Florida, and they can be taken by non-U.F. as well as by U.F. students.  Students may also arrange for academic credit from their home institutions.

Enrollment:  Limited to 12 participants, with preference given to upper-level students or professional biologists/teachers.

Application: Individuals should apply by April 16th, 2012 (to Dr. Judd, see address above).  Applications should include the following: a letter stating reasons for taking the course, a curriculum vita, and a letter of recommendation (sent separately).  Applicants will be notified of acceptance by May 7th, 2012.

Accommodation:  Students will be housed at The Kampong (Tyson dormitory in the Scarborough House), but, if desired, housing is also available at a hotel near Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.  Facilities at The Kampong include 2 dorm-style rooms with bunk beds, shared kitchenette for self-catering, laundry facility and wifi access. Dorm fees are $25 per day payable directly to The Kampong.

Fees/tuition: A course fee of $1550 is required to cover course/workshop costs.  In addition, if U.F. academic credit is desired, tuition costs are $498.09/ credit (in-state, graduate), $188.55/ credit (in state, undergraduate), $1222.81/ credit (out-of-state, graduate), or $931.12 /credit (out-of-state, undergraduate).

Dr. Walter Judd



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 273 other followers