29 de julho de 2020

Summer Wildlife: Life on the Oval Lawn

July 29, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

The lush green lawns found throughout Madison Square Park are a blend of various types of grasses that host a diverse collection of wildlife. Today, we take a closer look at the ground beneath us and highlight life on the Oval Lawn.

Alsike Clovers, Trifolium hybridum
Trifolium hybridum bursting from pink to white over the sea of green.

Did you know that one of the plants that blends into the surface of the Oval could bring you some fortune? Clovers consist of over 300 species and belong to the pea family. Clover is great for the lawn and actually helps fertilize the grass by fixing nitrogen—elements essential to lawn health. They can be found in patches across the lawn and tend to flower from late spring through summer. These delicate flowers become a rare source of food for pollinators foraging across the ocean of lawn grass, and are especially attractive to honey bees, bottle flies, and small hoverflies. Watch your step and you might even find a four leaf clover in the mix!

Milky Conecap, Conocybe apala
Conocybe apala near the end of their lifespans after a heavy rain period at Madison Square Park.

Emerging from the grassy surface, Milky Conecap mushrooms of the genus conocybe have found a brief home on the Oval Lawn. These fragile fungal friends are short lived—lasting only about 24 hours—and can be found on the lawns after heavy rains from June through October. They are also extremely fragile and will often crumble when handled, so we recommend avoiding them.

Groundsel Bush Beetle, Trirhabda bacharidis
A Trirhabda bacharidis beetle swinging from blade to blade through the Oval Lawn grasses.

Every day many beetles trek across the Oval Lawn in search for food and suitable nesting grounds. Some simply stop for rest and shelter along their extensive migration. Trirhabda bacharidis beetles are one of the many beetles on this journey. They look for specific tastes and will not stop to eat or nest until they find plants in the Baccharis genus (hence their latin name). The groundsel bush beetle's black and yellow pattern can often be confused with those of striped cucumber beetles and elm leaf beetles that are also found in the Park. Adults emerge from their larval state in April and can be spotted within the grassy surface through the Fall season.

Local naturalists, birders, and online data collection platforms such as iNaturalist and eBird help us track biodiversity. To learn more about the insects and other flora and fauna throughout Madison Square Park, visit our iNaturalist and eBird pages, or read more about our ongoing initiative to support our local wildlife.

Publicado em 29 de julho de 2020, 01:42 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 3 observações | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

24 de julho de 2020

Madison Square Park Pollinators I

July 24, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

Over thousands of years, pollinators found in Madison Square Park have coevolved with regional plants to transfer pollen between male and female flower parts. In return, the pollinators feed on nectar for energy and pollen for protein, keeping them alive throughout their lifecycle.

Here are a few pollinators you can find in Madison Square Park:

Apis mellifera is a bit of a polarizing species within the bee community. Although western honey bees are vital pollinators for many wild plants and the global agricultural industry, they are non native to North America. Because of this, they will often out compete native species for resources, threatening their existence and the global ecosystem. Because they have a generalist diet, you can spot western honey bees around almost any nectar producing flower in the Park. In addition to honey bees, the Park is also a host for many native species of bees like mason bees, leafcutter bees, and carpenter bees.

When someone refers to a fly, most of us immediately conjure up images of the pesky house fly, but like us, flies come in all shapes and sizes. Many hoverflies and flowerflies like those in the genus Syrphus actually mimic the appearance of bees to avoid predators, and like bees they are also a very important pollinator in a healthy ecosystem. Like other pollinators, flies rely on a reliable food supply of nectar and pollen. These hoverflies can be found in the Park throughout the year but are more active during the spring to fall months.

Butterflies and moths are some of the most charismatic pollinators, and a keystone species for a happy and healthy ecosystem. The Papilio glaucus is an especially charismatic species due the radiant yellow wings and contrasting black tiger stripes that give it it’s common name. While both males and females come in this form, the female can also come in a mostly black variant. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails inhabit the region from May through September, where adults will nectar on plants like cherry laurel (photographed) and milkweed. Keep an eye for swallowtails, monarchs, and other butterflies and moths from summer through the fall.

Another natural predator of the aphid, Coccinella are some of the cutest pollinators at the Park. Their small frame allows them to feed on nectar and pollen from tightly constructed flowers that larger bees and butterflies cannot reach. Lady beetles also have a tremendous appetite for aphids, and consume up to 5,000 aphids in a lifetime! As they search for the tiny leaf suckers, lady beetles inadvertently carry pollen from flower to flower and protect many plants from an over infestation of aphids.

Local naturalists, birders, and online data collection platforms such as iNaturalist and eBird help us track biodiversity. To learn more about the insects and other flora and fauna throughout Madison Square Park, visit our iNaturalist and eBird pages, or read more about our ongoing initiative to support our local wildlife.

Publicado em 24 de julho de 2020, 05:04 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 4 observações | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

18 de julho de 2020

Summer Wildlife: Fireflies at Dusk

July 18, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

As a managed green space, Madison Square Park is a vital source of food and shelter for native and migrating fauna throughout the year. This summer, we highlight a living light show that utilizes the Park in the pursuit of a suitable summer mate.

As the fireworks fade into the summer, another light show begins to take place in the heart of Madison Square Park. Adult Photinus pyralis beetles, also known as the common eastern firefly, begin to emerge from the cooler, more damp Park grounds and take to the sky with their flashy, aerial choreography.

A Photinus pyralis female looks for a better vantage point to scout out the hopeful males.

Although they seize our attention during the summer nights, P. Pyralis have been glowing since birth. Firefly eggs emit a slight glow that is visible to the naked eye––that’s if you can find them buried under the leaflitter and shrubbery in the Park. After about four weeks, they hatch into flightless larvae, where they will usually spend most of their lives living in the soil. The firefly larvae, also known as glow worms, are vicious predators. At night, they hunt slugs, snails, worms, and other insects, injecting its prey with digestive enzymes to immobilize it and liquefy its remains. After one to two years in the larval stage, the developing firefly moves into small pockets in the moist soil and pupates. While pupating, it undergoes metamorphosis, emerging from the pupa as an adult.

The P. pyralis female responds to a potential suitor.

During the early summer days, adult fireflies will find refuge in the plant beds and bushes. Around dusk, they begin to prepare for their main objective as adults. P. pyralis use their bioluminescent abdomens to attract mates during summer nights. Typically, the male flies low to the ground, flashing a mating signal. A female resting on vegetation will then respond to the male. By repeating this exchange, the male is able to home in on her, after which, they will mate. It is widely believed that P. pyralis fireflies refuse to feed as adults—they simply mate, produce offspring, and die.

If you are in the Park after sundown, keep an eye out for a hovering light show by Oval, Elm, Sol Lewitt, and Magnolia lawns. We ask that you avoid injuring our glowing friends, and if you happen to capture any of these creatures on camera, upload your images to iNaturalist to help us track biodiversity at Madison Square Park.

Publicado em 18 de julho de 2020, 06:03 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 1 observação | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

09 de julho de 2020

Summer Wildlife in the Park

July 09, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

As a managed green space, Madison Square Park is a vital source of food and shelter for native and migrating fauna throughout the year. This summer, we highlight a few flying fauna that utilize the Park for their essentials during the summer season.

Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Xylocopa virginica poking its head into a blooming Carolina Silverbell flower.

At first glance, one might confuse the eastern carpenter bee for the more well-known bumble bee, but look again and notice Xylocopa virginica is slightly larger and boasts an almost completely black abdomen that is shinier and less fuzzy than a bumble bee. Eastern carpenter bees nest over during the winter months with their sisters, typically living for over two years. Starting in April, the eldest sisters take charge by foraging for food, mating, and maintaining the nest, while the youngest sisters and male bees protect the nest from intruders. The second generation bees will begin senescence in July. During this time, the older bees will more frequently rest on flowers and eventually die off. The following spring, it is believed that the younger sisters will assume the role left by their elders, and begin the cycle again.

Bar-Winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)
An elusive bar-winged skimmer dragonfly resting by the reflecting pool.

Libellula axilena is a dragonfly species that belongs to the genus of chasers and skimmers, distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They are well-known, large dragonflies, and can often be seen flying around the Reflecting Pool during the summer. The bar-winged skimmers, pictured above, are especially charismatic due to their stylistic wing and body patterns. Like other dragonflies, bar-winged skimmers play a vital predatorial role in the ecosystem. They will chase down and snatch many different types and sizes of prey including mosquitos with great efficiency. This is great for all of us that enjoy sitting by the Reflecting Pool!

Common Eastern Firefly (Photinus pyralis)
A female P. pyralis beetle seeking a suitor on the Oval Lawn

What’s a summer night without a light show? Photinus pyralis is the most common firefly in North America, and despite its common name, is actually a type of beetle. During the summer days, adult fireflies will find refuge in the plant beds and bushes, and like other fireflies, P. pyralis use their bioluminescent abdomens to attract mates during summer nights. If you are in the Park after sundown, keep an eye out for a hovering light show by Oval, Elm, Sol Lewitt, and Magnolia lawns.

Publicado em 09 de julho de 2020, 04:10 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 3 observações | 2 comentários | Deixar um comentário

08 de maio de 2020

Meet the Trees: Cercis Canadensis (Eastern Redbud)

May 08, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

Madison Square Park’s redbud trees put on a show every spring! Commonly known as Eastern Redbud, this small to medium-sized tree is native to North America and Asia.

A beautiful burst of pink Cercis canadensis flowers.

As a member of the family Fabaceae, the redbud is related to several other plants that grace the Park with their presence, including cassias, wisteria, and black locust. Plants of this family are related to the peas and beans, and the relationship is noticeable in their flowers. The flowers of the redbud, as well as other members of Fabacea, are very similar to those of a pea flower, often having an upper petal that looks like two fused together (a banner) and two lower petals actually fused together (the keel) that enclose the flower’s reproductive parts.

Redbud flowers borne along its bark.

For redbuds, in particular, close inspection will reveal the presence of a keel, but no banner. The keel protects the reproductive parts from rain until a pollinator visits the flower. Here at the Park, these pollinators are often honeybees, bumblebees, or native leaf-cutting bees, which also cut out distinctive (but only cosmetically damaging) holes in redbud leaves. Redbuds flower early in the season, with flowers borne along the branches of the tree rather than only at the apex of stems. The odd location of the flowers makes for a gorgeous site when these trees bloom in early spring. The flowers are present before the leaves develop, allowing for a floral display with little distraction. Following flowering, redbuds develop long, dry seedpods called a legume that resemble a bean pod, another clue to their shared heritage.

Cercis canadensis at the 26th and Madison entrance

Thanks to our horticulturalists at Madison Square Park, we keep phenological data on our redbuds. Cercis sp. They are one of our five collection plants in the Park, with over 30 distinct cultivars present and more anticipated. While most are eastern redbud, a native to the eastern reaches of North America, there are several cultivars of Cercis chinensis, Chinese redbud, as well as a small number of other species.

Facts

  • Redbuds exhibit the phenomenon of cauliflory, where flowers are borne directly on their trunks and stems, rather than on newly produced shoots
  • The generic name, Cercis, is greek for “Weaver’s shuttle”, a reference to the resemblance of the seed pods to a weaving shuttle
  • Several species of Lepidopteran larvae feed on redbuds, including the cosmopolitan mouse moth, Amphipyra tragopoginis
  • Redbud bark, specifically C. chinensis, is used as an antiseptic agent in Chinese medicine
  • The flowers are edible and noted for having a refreshing, acidic taste that goes well in salads

Publicado em 08 de maio de 2020, 03:23 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 1 observação | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

24 de abril de 2020

Eastern Monarch Migration

April 24, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy


The beautiful markings of a Danaus plexippus.

In March, a great migration of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) departed from Central Mexico and the Southern United States using a combination of internal sun and magnetic “compasses” to migrate north. As of April, this kaleidoscope of monarchs has moved as far north as Virginia, mating, laying eggs, and nectaring along the way. Here, a new generation will continue the trip Northeast. By May, they will reach New York where the second and third generations will recolonize their eastern breeding grounds throughout the summer and into fall.


A monarch looking for nectar from park flowers.

Monarch butterflies call Madison Square Park home from May through September, and it's always a special event to see them. Witnessing multiple generations of monarchs is a sign that our horticulture team has planted enough Milkweed to sustain our visitors. Milkweed leaves are vital to the development of eggs and become food for the hatching monarch caterpillars. Finally, the butterflies emerge, nectaring on the flowers, before beginning the cycle once more. In September and October, the final generation of monarchs will be born, eat, and metamorphose, but unlike the first three generations that only live for two to six weeks, this generation lives longer. Migratory monarchs spend six to eight months migrating back to the Southern United States and the mountains of Central Mexico where they will spend the winter waiting for the season to cycle anew.

Publicado em 24 de abril de 2020, 06:32 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 1 observação | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

19 de março de 2020

Meet the Trees: Prunus Mume (Japanese Apricot)

March 19, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

Our first member of the cherry family is blooming in the Park!

A beautiful burst of pink Prunus mume flowers.

Prunus mume, the Japanese apricot or flowering apricot, is one of the earliest flowering members of its genus. Prunus includes stone fruit relatives such as the sakura, almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, and peaches. Japanese apricots are attractive ornamental trees, with over 300 named cultivars registered.


Closeup of a Prunus mume flower.

Despite its name, P. mume is actually native to China and Korea, not Japan. Its common name, however, reflects its extensive cultivation in Japan over the past 1,500 years where it has been used as the main ingredient in plum liquor.


Closeup of Prunus mume bark.

Japanese apricot’s flower in late winter. The flowers can be single or double in shades of red, pink, or white. Their late winter bloom is one of the earliest sources of food for pollinators in the area, and a vital source of food for bees during warmer winters.


Warmer winters mean bees, like the honey bee pictured here, will be foraging much earlier.

After flowering, the tree produces leaves and develops the small fruits that lend this tree its name. The apricots, though superficially similar to the commonly-eaten Siberian Apricot (Prunus armeniaca), are of far inferior quality and ripen during the summer. While edible, the fruit is regarded as too bitter to be enjoyable; however, the fruit makes excellent jams and preserves.


The prunus mume located across Shake Shack is selfie friendly and a local favorite!

Japanese apricots were introduced to the West via imports to Britain in the mid-1800’s. The specific name, mume, is one variation of the Japanese name for a member of the species Prunus.

Publicado em 19 de março de 2020, 11:00 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 2 observações | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

11 de fevereiro de 2020

Eastern Grey Squirrels

February 11, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

Squirrels are friendly Park ambassadors at Madison Square Park. They call the Park their home just like all the other wildlife found within this green oasis. However, many don’t know but human feeding of squirrels can cause major fluctuations in the squirrel population, causing overcrowding and hyper-competition for food and other resources. It shapes the animals to become more aggressive with humans, such as climbing on and biting Park visitors. They also may engage in risky behaviors such as approaching visitors with pet dogs, which leads to all sorts of trouble.



A local squirrel on one of the Park’s 33 Oak trees.

We have found it best for squirrels to eat food that grows in the Park. We have 33 oaks, 4 hawthorns, 7 cherry, 22 crabapple, 1 hackberry, and 3 horse chestnut trees that the squirrels can feed off of. Roughly, this comes out to 11 trees/acre of appropriate species of tree that can feed them, not including any of the understory or perennial material like chokeberry, blueberry, and winter hazel in the Park. (For more information, visit Page 29 of the Madison Square Park Tree Plan)



Another squirrel playing in the Park’s understory shrubs.

Food provided by visitors is unsustainable and often times, an unhealthy resource that harms them. By letting squirrels be wild creatures instead of pets, you end up helping them in the long run, so we ask visitors to stop and appreciate the Eastern Grey Squirrel from a distance. Squirrels have many behaviors that go unnoticed when we ask them to eat from our hand. Stop to observe and you will see how much they enjoy running up and down the many nut trees our horticulture team has placed throughout the Park; you will see them chase each other in a playful fashion; you might even see them bury a nut to trick their thieving friends.

In short, let’s continue to let our creatures stay wild and friendly.




Publicado em 11 de fevereiro de 2020, 10:25 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 1 observação | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

13 de janeiro de 2020

Winter Birds in the Park

January 13, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

On January 5, nature lovers, bird lovers, and bird watchers across the country celebrated this year’s National Bird Day! As a managed green space, Madison Square Park is a crucial source of food and shelter for native and migrating fauna during a time of scarcity. House Sparrows, European Starlings, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are just a few birds that have learned to utilize our space to survive the colder winters of New York.



House Sparrow
House Sparrows are one of most common bird visitors to the Park during the winter. Many sparrows nest in holes of nearby structures like streetlights, traffic lights, signs, and even buildings. They especially love the dense bushes and shrubs planted throughout the Park and Worth Square. These plants provide shelter from other predatory birds and humans passing through the Park. It is normal to see these social birds in flocks hopping around and feeding on seeds or discarded food found on the ground.



European Starling
European Starlings wear a different coat during winter when they are no longer breeding. Their body is covered in dark feathers with a spread of bright white spots. It is common to see them moving at a lively pace, foraging for insects and other invertebrates in our lawns and bushes alongside House Sparrows and Rock Pigeons. The many berries found on shrubs throughout Madison Square Park also provide food for European Starlings and other winter birds.



Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are resourceful woodpeckers that use their beaks to drill small holes into sap producing trees. The sap, and any trapped insects, become a source of food for these sapsuckers—giving them their name. These birds are easy to spot due to their white stripes and vivid red caps. While they lap up sap, Sapsuckers perch themselves vertically on bark leaving them stationary long enough to get a good look and maybe even a photo. Look for these birds and the tiny holes they construct in the north end of the Park where sap producing crabapple trees line the edge of Farragut Lawn.

Local birders and online data collection platforms such as eBird and iNaturalist help us track biodiversity. To learn more about the birds and other flora and fauna throughout Madison Square Park, visit eBird and iNaturalist.






Publicado em 13 de janeiro de 2020, 05:33 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 3 observações | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

04 de novembro de 2019

What’s in Bloom: Fall 2019

November 04, 2019 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

With autumn finally here, there are a variety of fall blooming flowers on display at Madison Square Park. Our horticulturists have chosen five plants currently blooming that we feel brighten up these shortened days and deserve your attention.


First up is the Japanese anemone, Anemone huphensis. Often called windflower due to the way their long, slender stems sway in the wind, A. huphensis is actually native to Central China, not Japan. However, a long history of cultivation in Japanese gardens, as well as its subsequent naturalization in many areas of Japan, has led to the mistaken belief that the archipelago is their original home. Anemone are herbaceous perennials with a tendency to form colonies over time. Emerging from the ground in the spring, anemone blooms from late summer all the way through autumn.


Next is a fall favorite, the aster. In the Park, we have members of the European and Asian genus Aster, as well as the genus of North American natives, Symphyotrichum. Regardless of the genus, asters are fall bloomers, with our asters starting their bloom in September. These flowers are herbaceous perennials and require full sun to perform their best. Here at the Park, we plant Aster ‘Wood’s Blue’ and ‘Wood’s Purple’ that are more resistant to certain diseases. Aster plants are hardy to zone 4.


Ageratina altissima, or white snakeroot, is an herbaceous perennial with profuse clusters of small, white flowers. This woodland plant is native to the eastern U.S. and grows in full sun to part shade. While snakeroot prefers moist soils, it has decent tolerance to dry soils. Snakeroot derives its name from the belief that Native Americans boiled the root to create a medicine for snakebites. The mysterious affliction, called milk sickness that affected European settlers, was caused by drinking milk from cows that had eaten white snakeroot.


Heuchera sanguinea, which are alternately called coral bells, fairy flower, or crimson bells, are another herbaceous perennial that are gracing the Park with their blooms. A native to the western half of the U.S., coral bells are evergreen plants that grow well in shady areas of the garden. Owing to the dry conditions of its native range, H. sanguinea is rather tolerant of dry conditions, making it very suitable for dry, shady areas. As is it evergreen, its foliage, generally of greater ornamental interest than its flowers, will add color and interest throughout the year; in areas with exceptionally cold winters, foliage may be damaged by low temperatures. One of this plant’s common names, alumroot, is a reference to the astringent properties of its roots, which can substitute alum when pickling. The inflorescences rise above the foliage, and the tiny, pink flowers lend an airy feel to the plant.


Last, but far from least, we have Senna alata, emperor’s candlesticks, candlebush, seven golden candlesticks, or a dozen other names paying homage to the flowers of this Central and South American native. S. alata is statuesque bordering on imposing, especially when grown without proper support. As a native of the tropics, the candlebush plant functions best as an annual outside of the southernmost parts of the U.S. In areas not lucky enough to enjoy S. alata as an evergreen, it can start from seed during the winter months and be transplanted outside, where it often reaches heights of between 6 and 8 feet. Come winter it can be brought indoors for overwintering, though this is often difficult. Blooms are seasonal and come after the plant has grown for a while. Candlebush leaves are used as a treatment for ringworm and fungal infections of the skin, owing to the presence of fungicidal compounds. Candlebush plants are hardy to zone 9.

Logged sightings on iNaturalist help Madison Square Park Conservancy understand our urban ecosystem and allow us to create a Park that benefits people, plants, and animals.


Publicado em 04 de novembro de 2019, 10:09 TARDE por mspceco mspceco | 13 observações | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário