photo: Marielle Anzelone via flickr
Wildflower Week NYC celebrates its 3rd Anniversary in New York City this week with a bunch of events that will make you think differently about wildflowers, or at least make you stop and smell them! Some of my favorite places in the five boroughs are the designated sites for tours for wildflower week, such as: Battery Park, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Queens Botanic Garden, Liz Chrystie Community Garden, along with several others. Ever wondered about how plants survive on the High Line Park? Go to the Tuesday lunchtime tour with High Line gardeners, where you can learn about the park's unique horticultural design and the challenges of tending a garden on old elevated train tracks. Want to see how you can put a green roof on an arts space in the East Village? Check out Alive Structure's lovely rooftop garden at Wild Project Theater. Wildflower Week was created at the national level by Ladybird Johnson three decades ago. Wildflower Week NYC was started by Marielle Anzelone three years ago, after she became frustrated about the charismatic megafauna in New York City grabbing all the attention.
You know, you've seen New Yorkers rally behind the photogenic Pale Male the Hawk, Jose the Beaver, and Gowanda the Seal . . . yet Torrey's Mountainmint, an unassuming plant retains relative anonymity even though it is endangered. People these days are fascinated with both wild animals and garden plants, but wild native plants remain less well known.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the concrete jungle of New York City currently hosts the largest wildflower week in the country. New York City has lost more than 75% of its green space, but when Henry Hudson arrived 400 years ago on Mannahatta, he encountered a lush, green land with babbling brooks, wetlands, old growth forests, and rolling hills. Originally there were thirty native orchid species in New York City, today only six species remain.
So to raise the profile of these sometimes rare plants, Marielle, who had worked as a botanist at New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for many years, started her own native plant landscaping company, Drosera, as well as beginning NYC Wildflower Week. From May 1 through May 9 this year her organization sponsors wildflower lectures, botanical walks, garden tours, and kids' events.
Many of the more popular events this year are the edible plant events, where plants native to New York City, including wild ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and pea shoots, are being served at the best restaurants in New York City, such as James, Ici and Mas. For the edible dinners at Mas on May 2nd and May 3rd there will a guest lecturer who will speak to the value of native plants, especially edible ones. There will also be cooking demonstrations with native plants at the Bowery Whole Foods.
There has been a native plant resurgence recently in NYC. With wetlands restoration projects taking place along Jamaica Bay and replanting of perhaps New York City's most famous native plant: the Newtown pippin apple, favorite apple of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. On April 28, Newtown pippin enthusiasts planted 40 heirloom apple trees at Randall's Island. This will become NYC's first public access orchard.
The weather's getting warmer and now April showers have brought May flowers, so come out this week and check out the wildflowers blooming all around you.