When you think "wildflowers" what comes to mind? Fields of dew-kissed blue bonnets in Texas? A blooming desert after a rare rainstorm? An alpine meadow? Perhaps Lady Bird Johnson? Or maybe just a Tom Petty album, or girls with garlands in their hair (today is May Day/Beltane, after all).
Chances are good you did not think of New York City. However, a group of dedicated botanists, conservationists, parks officials and sponsors thinks that maybe you should.
That's because it's almost the second annual New York City Wildflower Week (May 2-9), a celebration of the hundreds of native flowers, trees, shrubs and grasses that are found in the five boroughs. A number of family-friendly, free activities will be held throughout the city, including botanical walks, garden tours, ecology lectures, children's events, planting opportunities, cooking classes and food tastings at top restaurants. The programs are supported by the Torrey Botanical Society (the country's oldest society for plant science), the Hudson River Foundation's New York City Environmental Fund, and the utility conEdison (TDG is a media sponsor).
Despite it's reputation as a concrete jungle, NYC is actually now home to the largest celebration of National Wildflower Week, an initiative that had been started by Lady Bird Johnson. This is perhaps fitting, given Mayor Bloomberg's strong commitment to going green, including the goal of planting a million trees, preserving open space, reducing emissions and inspiring vertical farms and rooftop gardens. There will soon by wildflowers blooming in lower Manhattan on the revitalized High Line park, as well as fields over the former Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island. In fact, as NYC Wildflower Week organizer Marielle Anzelone recently pointed out at a community talk (original TDG video to be posted shortly), the Big Apple is home to more protected parkland than any other major U.S. city -- about 25% of the city, or 53,000 acres, which is more than Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia combined!
Not only will the various activities of Wildflower Week get people involved in appreciating and protecting nature (and help counter growing nature deficit disorder!), but it can help crystallize real action to plant more native foliage, as well as protect what we're losing. Many may be surprised to learn that the NYC area is actually home to a number of endangered plants, such as the elusive Torrey Mountain Mint. In fact, more than 40% of New York State's rare and endangered plant species can be seen in the five boroughs within city parks.
Here are some ways you can help native plants, courtesy of NYC Wildflower Week:
Check out this exclusive TDG video of Marielle Anzelone talking about Wildflower Week and the importance of protecting, and exploring, urban nature:
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.