NYBG Scientist Scott Mori has nominated the Cannon Ball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) as the most interesting tree in the world. I know we have a lot of tree and botany nerds that follow us, and if you disagree we would love to hear your nominations! If your nomination is interesting and/or passionate enough, we might even publish it here! So, is the Cannon Ball Tree the most interesting tree in the world?
Matt Cook, NYBG’s Assistant Manager of Arboretum and Grounds, snapped this mysterious set of tracks crossing the frozen Bronx River. Anyone have any thoughts as to what it might be? We’re stumped. ~AR
Update: Word just in from one of the herpetologists at the American Museum of Natural History that these tracks were most likely not made by a turtle (one of the more popular suggestions). Why? They’re cold blooded, and boy has it been cold! Their best guess? A large bird, perhaps a goose or a turkey.
There is no such thing as too much David Attenborough. ~AR
David Attenborough chooses some of his favourite moments in a long and illustrious career.
The Private life of plants. BBC Earth.
As a child this series mesmerized me. It was the first time this kind of timelapse photography had ever been seen. My love of nature may well stem from this moment.
Few understand the nuances of nature like Larry Lederman, whose masterful photography captures the colors of the NYBG throughout each of the four seasons. In Magnificent Trees of The New York Botanical Garden, the towering oaks, sweetgums, and tulip trees of our landscape take center stage for a visual study of light and life.
The next time you’re walking through the Forest enjoying the symphony being trilled from the trees, remember this: The birds are having an emotional response, too! According to a new study, birds respond to the songs of their fellows in much the same way we respond to Beethoven’s “Pastoral” or the theme song the “Twilight Zone.” So much for bird brains … ~AR
In the Garden, this is probably a quirk of nature you’ll only catch if you happen to pick up an early morning grounds pass. They’re also included in some of our Membership packages! (The passes, that is—not the cotton-candy-lookin’ winter oddities.) —MN
Frost Flowers: Nature’s Exquisite Ice Extrusion
A frost flower is created on autumn or early winter mornings when ice in extremely thin layers is pushed out from the stems of plants or occasionally wood. This extrusion creates wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles giving this phenomenon both its name and its appearance.
Oh plants, you are endlessly fascinating! So many of your gorgeous morphological features, seemingly designed for simple human enjoyment, are actually genius studies in pollination. Take cup- or funnel-shaped flowers. Pretty, yes, but each little flower is so much more! Called “splash-cup” plants, raindrops fall into these flowers and then, using the velocity of the splashes, strew their seeds far and near. But wait, there’s more! Not only is this science that is fun to watch, it’s also science that serves a purpose, including possibly harnessing rain’s kinetic energy as electricity, helping manufacturers make more efficient ink jet printers, and possibly even helping in the science of crime scene forensics. Yep, this proves it, plants, you’re the best! ~AR
How would you like to lower your blood pressure, stave of depression, cure your lower back pain, and prevent cancer? Guess what: It’s easy. Just go outside!
At least that’s what some of Japan’s leading scientists suggest you do. And they should know: Japan is one stressed-out country. Between long hours at work, extreme societal pressure to succeed in school and life, and the never ending fear of another huge earthquake, the Japanese need copious ways to relax. In the 80s the Japanese government invented the concept of shirin-yoku, aka forest bathing. Since then, the government has invested huge amounts of time and money into preserving forests in which its citizens can hike and relax, and now they’re pushing the country’s scientists to prove empirically that it works. “We have to validate the ideas scientifically, through stress physiology, or we’re still stuck at Walden Pond,” says Alan C. Logan, an American author.
This is such an interesting article, and totally worth a read. And if it just happens to inspire you to get outside and get lost in the woods, might I humbly suggest a stroll amid the centuries-old trees of the Thain Family Forest? But, I’m sure you knew that was coming, didn’t you? ~AR
Recently, we posted a picture of a skeptical squirrel on our blog, which generated a pretty funny* string of reply-tweets containing other skeptical squirrels from across the country. But did you know that in addition to being judgmental and twitchy, squirrels are also champion liars? They pretend to hide food in order to deceive other squirrels, they hide and steal and cheat. And apparently these are characteristics that the world’s robots need to learn in order to make it in war zones and real life, and squirrels are the perfect teachers. I, for one, welcome our fluffy-tailed overlords. ~AR
*seriously, if you did not click through to this photo, I am begging you to do so now.
Fibonacci is everywhere in botany, from the center of the sunflower, to the swirl of the pine cone, to the whorls of a pineapple. Watch Vi Hart break it on down.
The head of a flower is made up of small seeds which are produced at the center, and then migrate towards the outside to fill eventually all the space (as for the sunflower but on a much smaller level). Each new seed appears at a certain angle in relation to the preceeding one. For example, if the angle is 90 degrees, that is 1/4 of a turn.…This angle has to be chosen very precisely: variations of 1/10 of a degree destroy completely the optimization. When the angle is exactly the golden mean, and only this one, two families of spirals (one in each direction) are then visible: their numbers correspond to the numerator and denominator of 2 consecutive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence, which is proved to converge toward the Golden Mean value of 1.6180339… (in the picture we have 21/34, the 7th and 8th terms of the Fibonacci sequence).The Fibonacci sequence is named after Leonardo of Pisa, who was known as Fibonacci. Fibonacci’s 1202 book Liber Abaci introduced the sequence to Western European mathematics, although the sequence had been described earlier in Indian mathematics. (By modern convention, the sequence begins either with F0 = 0 or with F1 = 1. The Liber Abaci began the sequence with F1 = 1, without an initial 0.)
The Wall Street Journal’s Ralph Gardner Jr. stopped by the Garden to visit with Jessica Schuler, Manager of the Thain Family Forest, and Todd Forest, VP for Horticulture and Living Collections, to assess the damage done to this 50-acre old-growth forest by Superstorm Sandy. The storm knocked down or snapped over 100 trees in the forest, but, as Forrest put it, “It’s the perfect time to see dynamic ecology in action.” ~AR
Happy stories about the Bronx River make me happy! This is a nice look at a new study of amphibians and reptiles being undertaken by our colleagues at the Wildlife Conservation Society (aka, the Bronx Zoo) who are situated just down the river from us. The WCS team are looking at the health of the river’s amphibians as proxy for the health of the river. It is a prelude to next year’s building of a fish ladder by the Bronx River Alliance that will allow the native fish, alewife, to spawn again in the Bronx River. And it’s all thanks to Congressman Jose Serrano, namesake of Jose Beaver (and friend of Justin Beaver) who undertook the restoration of the river many years ago. Like I said, happy stories make me happy! ~AR
No underlying reason for reblogging this other than sheer botanical beauty. I’ve always wanted to dodder about in the Pacific northwest (or, in this case, Canada’s Pacific southwest), if only for the drizzled greenery. And I’m not at all inspired by the Twilight movies, or Portland’s hipster beacon, for that matter. I promise.
That last bit was tellingly “hip” in its defensiveness, wasn’t it? —MN
I have finally found some time to add the pictures from our October trip to Vancouver Island. A botanist’s paradise!
Kind of makes you want to sing “Hakuna Mata” doesn’t it? ~AR
Any craft that helps you better appreciate the beautiful topography of a stick is an excellent craft in my book. These would be a pretty stand-in for a Christmas tree for any space constrained New Yorker: arrange in a vase, add a few ornaments, and maybe a short string of battery-powered LED lights, and boom! Something gorgeous for nearly nothing. ~AR
she’s crafty: yarn sticks
Here’s a perfect project to do while you’re watching the boob tube: it keeps your hands busy, but not your brain.
To cover the stick, Martha Stewart recommends yarn, but I find yarn to be quite expensive. Also, I have a box of embroidery floss from when I was in 5th grade (!) and I figured, what is the point of having this floss if I’m not going to do something with it?
I already had the perfect stick sitting in a jar in our living room, from a previous scavenger hunt outside. You don’t want the stick to be too thin, else it’ll break. Also, it shouldn’t be too straight. You want something that has some twists and turns. Be wary of bumps, though; they’re complicated because it’s hard to cover them with string. I used various green threads, to go with the green palette in our living room. It was fun to do stripes.
When you start wrapping your string around the stick, you don’t need any glue. You can just start wrapping the string around itself until it’s secure. When you get to the end of the string, put a dab of regular old Elmer’s on the stick, and wrap the string around the glue, gliding your fingers along the string, around the stick, to tamp down the string. That technique has worked perfectly for me—no loose ends have popped up.
The really lovely part about this project was that I was wrapping the stick, I really noticed all the little bumps and lichen and texture of the stick. It was a really beautiful stick, every little part of it was perfect. It was almost a shame to cover it up with string, actually, once I realized how beautiful the stick was. But I never would have noticed in the first place if I hadn’t been wrapping it.
Everybody needs a stick.