Today was a short day of collecting, but it was a lot of fun. We had the pleasure of having my friend Marie Winn with us today. I met Marie when I first started as a gardener for the Conservancy many years ago. You may know her, she is the author of two books about Central Park - Red Tails In Love: Pale Male's Story - A True Wildlife Drama in Central Park and Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife. She also has a nice website where she talks about nature in Central Park (www.mariewinn.com). I met her and many other birders back in 1994 when Pale Male, the famous red-tailed hawk, started nesting on Fifth Avenue. I used to join Marie on her early morning bird walks and learned a great deal from her and the other birders. It was great to have her along today and feel like I was returning the favor of teaching!
Another treat today was that we found several species that have not been previously documented for Central Park. Now this does not mean folks don't know it is here, just that in previous inventories, no one documented it. It may have been overlooked or it may in fact be a new species for the park. Wind, birds, people, we all move plants and plant seeds around, so it is possible for new species to show up in the Park. The Conservancy plants many native species for restoration projects and some of these have begun to regenerate on their own, so these would not have been on previous surveys and would be listed as new for the Park in our survey.
At the entrance to 96th Street and Central Park West, we found a nice stand of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra). In my last blog entry (July 16) I spoke about staghorn sumac. This plant looks very similar and has a similar growth habit. They both exude a white latex. However, smooth sumac does not have the hairy stems. This is a species that the Conservancy has planted in restoration projects and it is reproducing nicely.
On the transverse overpass, still at the 96th Street entrance, we collected a specimen from a white oak (Quercus alba). This is not on any previous list. Most white oaks in the park look like they were planted and probably were, but this one looks spontaneous. It seems to be around 40 or 50 years old and is in a spot where no one would logically plant a tree - on the edge of the path near the transverse road. We will have to be observant and see if we find more spontaneous white oaks around.
Grasses, sedges are rushes are difficult groups to identify. Previous lists do not have many species listed in these groups, most likely because of identification issues. This is the advantage of making herbarium specimens of each species we find. If we can't figure it out, there will be someone that can and we will have a permanent sample to use for identification. It may take time, but it will happen.
On the east side of the West Drive at 96th Street, we found two rushes growing near each other. One is the common path rush (Juncus tenuis). The other we do not have an identification for yet. Stay tuned...
On the fence-line at the Tennis House, we found a vine climbing. It had just been weed-whacked by staff trimming the growth along the fence, but we got it in time to make a pressing. It is a common morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea). A very common ornamental that people use in their gardens and that spreads readily from seed.
Today we got only a handful of new species for our project, but they were interesting species. And the company was wonderful. Ken Chaya also joined us for a bit. The four of us enjoyed each other's company and learned a lot from one another.