A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Putting NYC (Invasives) On the Map

Baruch Tauber joined Wave Hill’s Education team in late May as Forest Project Senior Crewleader, and is running the PRISM invasives monitoring initiative. Tauber holds a degree in landscape architecture. This post from the field comes as New York State’s Invasive Species Awareness Week draws to a close. 

New York City is a celebrated melting-pot of culture, ideas and identities. For centuries, New York’s harbor has welcomed immigrants from around the world. Some bring with them animals or plants that quickly established and thrived in the city’s landscape, outcompeting or even eradicating essential parts of our natural ecosystem. For this reason, some ecologists also refer to NYC as the “ground zero” for invasive species.

The city also sits on the border of multiple ecological zones. For example, Staten Island is the northernmost point for many species. Many invasives will have to pass through this region before continuing north. Similarly, the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx and its surrounding 900+ acres of woodlands serves as an important transition zone between the Bronx and suburbia.iMap j bar spread 0713


Here at Wave Hill, the Forest Project 2018 cohort of 22 high school students are working to restore our woodlands and learn about their ecological context. This year, for the first time, through funding help of Lower Hudson PRISM (Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management) students will take this work beyond Wave Hill. Working with neighborhood residents and institutions to mitigate the destructive spread of invasive species, these students are raising awareness of urban ecological systems on a neighborhood level.

An essential tool for this process is iMap Invasives, PRISM’s mobile GIS mapping technology. This app allows professionals and volunteers alike to map the spread of targeted species through an intuitive data collection interface.


Every week, Forest Project students survey a specified area looking for the presence—and absence—of an emerging or particularly threatening plant species. After using their well-honed plant ID skills to find the species, a location marker and photo is uploaded to NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) database for invasives management.iMapp 0713

As the summer progresses, survey results will vary from week to week and from species to species. Last week we canvassed the woodlands of College of Mount Saint Vincent in search of Japanese barberry, a once popular ornamental plant and a prime environment for deer ticks. On a recent field trip to Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester, we saw dozens of barberry shrubs lining the path, yet in Riverdale we found none. Looking at the PRISM database map, we can see that barberry—while still spreading in rural and suburban areas—is apparently almost absent in New York City Parks. This is good news for the health of New Yorker City dwellers. Our survey results, along with the work of hundreds of volunteers throughout the region, is now in the State database and provides essential data for geo-specific pest management.

For nearly four decades, Wave Hill’s Forest Project has introduced hundreds of NYC students to the ecological roles of urban woodlands, as part of a patchwork ecosystem. Through piloting Wave Hill’s iMap Invasives initiative, they are learning how to apply their knowledge to their own neighborhood. Utilizing the DEC’s resources, they can begin to see a larger picture and how even small interventions at the neighborhood level can equal more than the sum of its parts.

Plant of the Week: Pelargonium graveolens (Rose-scented Geranium)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

There are many species of scented geranium, each with its own unique aroma, released whenever the foliage is lightly brushed. Besides being excellent plants for garden containers, they are grown commercially on a field scale for their aromatic oils, which are used as flavorings in foods and as fragrances for soaps and cosmetics.plant

Native to Southern Africa, and called pelargoniums by botanists, scented geraniums are distinguished from the related, cold-hardy cranesbills (Geranium spp.) by their flowers. Pelargoniums have two upper petals and three lower, usually of a different size or shape and sometimes of a slightly different color. The cranesbills usually have five, evenly-sized and uniformly-colored petals.close-up

Pelargonium graveolens is known for its remarkable rose-like scent. It is often used as one of the parent species in the hybridizing new cultivars and, although they might be very different in appearance (and scent), many geranium oils will have “Pelargonium graveolens” listed on the label. Our plant in the Herb Garden is called the “true rose-scented” geranium, indicating that it is the original species.setting

Right next to it is the peppermint-scented pelargonium (P. tomentosum) with its large, velvety leaves. Located nearby are other pelargoniums, with scents ranging from nutmeg and apple, to lemon and even coconut.

2018 Teen Internships Get underway

Barry Kogan, Wave Hill’s Senior Manager of Youth Programs, manages Wave Hill’s Forest Project, a six-week, paid summer internship for teens that works to improve the ecology of the Bronx, and the Woodland Ecology Restoration Mentorship (WERM), a 14-month program for high school students.

It is the start of a new summer at Wave Hill, and both our Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship (WERM) and Forest Project (FP) internship programs are officially underway. With a wonderful group of fresh students and a couple of exciting new initiatives, we here on the Youth Programs team are optimistic that this 2018 session will be our best yet. Out of 170 applicants, a total of 45 students were accepted into our programs in June. These are high schoolers between the ages of 15 and 18 who have a demonstrated interest in learning about forest restoration and scientific research.

This summer, 22 WERM research interns are already at work, including nine ongoing interns who are beginning to work with their mentors, and 13 new interns who are just starting their 15-month, WERM journey. IMG_1921They are pursuing a full schedule of college-level courses, restoration field work, workshops on data collection and analysis and a medley of lectures on restoration topics.

Our 22 Forest Project interns are likewise carrying out restoration work and data collection this summer. Seven of these FP interns—all high school seniors—will be taking a class on Geographic Informational Systems (GIS) at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, while the other 15 will be taking a Restoration of NYC Natural Areas course here at Wave Hill.IMG_7053IMG_7055

As the summer progresses, we will be posting blog entries that go into greater detail about all aspects of our programs, including the students’ courses and research.IMG_7061

Wave Hill as Part of a Larger Ecosystem
Our youth internship programs continue to be rooted in the authentic setting of New York City ecological restoration. The eight-acre forest on Wave Hill’s grounds—the Herbert and Hyonja Abrons Woodland—serves as the perfect setting for our students to put their restoration work into practice. Situated within Riverdale, our forest is part of a larger ecosystem in the Bronx. While our students carry out their restoration work here on Wave Hill grounds, our WERM interns conduct research projects in their second summer that enable them to explore other areas within this larger ecosystem. For example, in their second summer these Senior WERM students are working on projects with their respective mentors at The New York Botanical Garden and in Inwood Hill Park. We place a great deal of emphasis on continuing to work closely with partners across the NYC area, as well as translating our interns’ education into practice.

While Wave Hill has been a leader in urban forest restoration for over 38 years, our internship programs and curricula are constantly being updated to provide a foundation in modern scientific restoration methods. Our students learn a data collection protocol that is based on methods used by the Natural Areas Conservancy (NAC). In 2013 and 2014, the NAC conducted the first standardized assessment of 10,000 acres of forests and wetlands across the entirety of NYC. Our students carry out a similar assessment in our Wave Hill forest to draw conclusions about its natural history, as well as to assess threats and deduce how to restore and sustain the forest and its native species.

New Collaboration with PRISM
The newest exciting initiative being incorporated into our program this year is our collaboration with Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM). This is an initiative to provide working data about the diversity of species present across New York State, and particularly to spread awareness about invasive plants and their effect on natural ecosystems. This summer marks the start of our PRISM pilot project. Consistent with the idea that our forest here at Wave Hill is part of a larger ecosystem, our PRISM surveys will take place in the Riverdale area. In addition to Wave Hill’s eight acres of woodlands, work will take place in Riverdale Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and a few patches of woods in the surrounding areas that are on private property, such as the College of Mount Saint Vincent campus. The goal is to have these patches of urban woodland in Riverdale be viewed and used as a connected ecosystem that is routinely explored, restored and valued by the local community. With this PRISM initiative we are helping to increase and improve restoration and invasive management in the local Riverdale area, increase the numbers of youth and adults trained in restoration and invasive monitoring skills in the Bronx, as well as increase awareness and understanding of the importance of urban forest restoration and monitoring.

Participating in PRISM is a natural fit for us here at Wave Hill because of our authentic natural NYC setting and promoting community awareness and participation in restoration. The goals of PRISM tie in perfectly with our Forest Project internship, enabling us to engage our local high school students, college students and community members in the restoration efforts. Information gathered about the presence/absence of invasive species will be entered into the iMap Invasives app—a useful tool for crowdsourcing data. This initiative will be particularly active during the NY State Invasive Species Awareness Week, taking place this summer from July 9 through July 15.

Stewardship Mapping Project Part of Gallery Exhibition this Summer
While the focus of our attention this summer is on our beloved WERM and Forest Project internship programs, there is a myriad of other related and exciting programs happening at Wave Hill this summer that are worth noting. An educational program for a group of students from Bronx Institute at Lehman College will be hosted at Wave Hill on Fridays. These students will develop their knowledge of urban forests and learn how to compare and assess attributes of healthy forests through a course similar to our Restoration of NYC Natural Areas course. In Wave Hill’s Glyndor Gallery, the exhibition this summer, Ecological Consciousness: Artist as Instigator, will include a STEW-MAP project. STEW-MAP (Stewardship Mapping Assessment Project) is a searchable database and map of stewardship groups in New York City. This is a wonderful project highlighting the civic groups and social networks that comprise the multitudes of environmental stewards in local communities. Additionally, our Public Programs department is constantly leading exciting events and activities at Wave Hill, including local hikes that often have a restoration theme to them.

We hope you come visit beautiful and historic Wave Hill this summer, and if you take a stroll through our grounds you will most likely catch a glimpse of our WERM and Forest Project interns hard at work restoring the forest.


Plant of the Week: Acanthus hungaricus (Acanthus Species/Bear’s Breeches)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Garden designers refer to some plants as being “architectural plants.” This term suggests that a plant with dramatic foliage, or a distinctive growth habit, can serve as a central point of interest in a planting scheme. This is certainly true of Acanthus hungaricus but it can also lay claim to a more literal definition. Ancient Greeks and Romans frequently depicted acanthus foliage in decorative stone carving, most notably on the capitols of their columns in the Corinthian architectural order.

It is a handsome plant with large, thistle-like foliage and tall spikes of geometrically arranged white flowers with mauve bracts.the-plant-2


A large clump of it can be seen blooming this week in the Wild Garden and is well worth a visit.setting-2

Several species of acanthus exist, most of them native to regions of the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia. Acanthus hungaricus is native to Hungary and to parts of the Balkan Peninsula.

Bear’s breeches is an old common name, the origin of which is not entirely clear.

Plant of the Week: Ratibida columnifera (Long-headed Coneflower/Mexican Hat)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

The long-headed coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) grows in open ground and prairies across much of North America. It is drought-tolerant and tough and, if provided with well-drained soil, makes a great garden plant for a sunny spot.

It blooms from June through late summer, even into early fall, and the flowers give off a lovely, sweet scent. The flower head is supposedly reminiscent of a sombrero, hence the alternative common name of “Mexican hat.”the-plant





The drooping “petals” are actually ray-florets—modified flowers—typical of the aster family. Its true flowers are tiny and clustered around the tall, central cone.close-up

Two forms exist, one with yellow ray-florets and a dark maroon form, which can be seen in our Herb Garden.


Feathered Friends….Recollections on Teaching at Wave Hill

Mixed-media artist Wennie Huang, PSA, a frequent teacher at Wave Hill art workshops, produces works that range from small drawings and limited-edition books and projects, to site-specific installations, including a permanent mural installation inspired by a tree in Inwood in upper Manhattan. She has created site-specific installations in both Glyndor and Wave Hill Houses and curated the exhibition Ornamental Instincts in 2008. Since then, she has led Wave Hill art workshops in pastel, watercolor and mixed media, and a book-making workshop for children. Huang currently teaches at Parsons School for Design, 92nd Street Y, and the Pastel Society of America (PSA), where she is a Signature Member.

Plumage to Quill: Studies and Renderings of Birds in the Landscape

When I first began teaching at Wave Hill a decade ago, I was drawn most to its abundant views of nature, planted and pruned, perennial and piney, and nestled within it two grand houses, and within each of those, delicious selections of visual art in dialogue with its surrounding nature; creating altogether something like a Chinese nesting box. I was drawn to the elements that remained still enough to draw them, and what was less visible were the moving elements; the bugs that bit, yes, but most of all, I neglected to see the birds of Wave Hill.

Birds are most visible to young children, among them my son of 10 years ago. Back then, at age 5, before he morphed into the teenager he is now, he was drawn to their lack of stillness: to their jerky quirky movements, their peeps and songs, and most of all, to their ability to fly. Perhaps he sensed in them a kindred spirit. Indeed, he did inform me upon seeing his shadow in the night cast from a street lamp, that his spirit animal was a penguin, alas a flightless bird. My son’s favorite souvenir from those days was an orange t-shirt from The Shop at Wave Hill, with an artful silkscreen illustration of a robin. To him, at age 5, Wave Hill was the place with the birds.

Turns out, he was right. This spring, I brought birds to Wave Hill for the spring art workshop series, Plumage to Quill. They were still birds, stuffed for study, frozen in time, like the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History, where I participate in the Animal Drawing Program headed by Patricia Wynne, a resident scientific illustrator and printmaker. It was Patricia who generously lent her private collection of birds. And it was at the museum that I finally came around to seeing the birds, and painting them in watercolor; which spawned the idea for having an art workshop combining life studies of birds with views of Wave Hill.pic_1

pic-2Our star specimen was Edgar, the English raven, pictured in my sketch here. Well over a hundred years old, Edgar sat in the front seat on my weekly commute to and from Wave Hill. His cohorts were an adolescent hawk, and a bufflehead mallard I nicknamed “Pthalo.”pic-3

Patricia also lent us a whole box nested within which were 13 frozen songbirds, including locals felled by a misplaced window: yellow-bellied sapsucker, ovenbird and flycatcher; as well as more exotic, domesticated pets of Patricia’s who I am sure lived a grand life before being preserved: a canary,  and cordon bleu, gouldian, zebra and owl finches. pic-4

We began the workshop in mid-April with an action-packed bird walk led by none other than naturalist Gabriel Willow, who enlightened us on the particulars of binocular use, birdsong and umwelt, literally a birds-eye view. This culminated in our visit to an exhibition of Gabriel’s artwork in the Tea Room in Wave Hill House, which closed earlier this month. It combined and merged his renderings of extinct birds within contemporary urban landscapes. Gabriel also taught a botanical illustration class on June 10.pic-5

Having never met Gabriel, I identified him immediately by the way he swept up the ovenbird by the legs—Patricia had informed me this was the best way to hold the specimens—because who else would have this response to a box of dead birds?

Over the four weeks of the workshop series, participants studied and sketched directly from the bird specimens. The next three sketches are by class participants Bernie F., Katherine D. and Naomi G.pic-6


After a study of structure and shape, we layered media, including ink, colored pencils, pastel pencils, watercolor and gouache, to distinguish particular colors and markings on the feathers, in particular those surrounding the head. Next are two of my own sketches of a canary, followed by volunteer Ellen H.’s of a hawk and Nancy V.’s of a flycatcher.pic-9

pic-10pic-11pic-12And some participants incorporated photographs as references, as well. Here, for instance, is Marianne M.’s composition of a heron based on a reproduction.pic-13

During the last two weeks of the workshop, we focused on composition to integrate the entire bird within Wave Hill’s landscape….sometimes grouping birds together…first on branches of trees we viewed out Armor Hall’s gothic windows, before integrating views of Wave Hill. In order, here is work from the third session: Elaine D.’s composition of Edgar with two songbirds,pic-14

Nancy T. adding landscape to her bird painting,pic-15

Judith D. adding branches to her watercolor,pic-16

Jean M. creating the landscape before she sketched her birds,pic-17

Lena B.’s mixed-media composition,pic-18

Jeannie M.’s colored-pencil drawing of a hawk perched in the pines outside Armor Hall,pic-19-resized

Elaine D.’s watercolor composition of Edgar with two songbirds,pic-20

Dorothy K.’s two songbirds,pic-21

Katherine D.’s hawk seen against the pines outside Armor Hall,pic-22-resized

Marianne M.’s composition of a heron based on a reproduction,pic-23

workshop volunteer Carole G.’s composition incorporating the Palisades as backdrop,pic-24

Bernie M.’s visionary watercolor using the pine outside Armor Hall as a unifying landscape element,pic-25

Nancy V.’s hawk perched among songbirds in the pines,pic-26

Kathy M.’s mixed-media watercolor and collage of two songbirds on the balustrade,pic-27

Jean M.’s complex collage of yellow-bellied sapsucker, finch, cordon blue finch, flycatcher and hawk,pic-28

and Katherine D.’s mixed-media collage incorporating her watercolor of a hawk and the a copper beech.pic-29-resized

Before the last workshop, we also took time to share our experiences in a group critique. We discussed how incorporating the bird into the landscape became a much more emotional experience than anticipated.pic-30

Participants recounted their personal bird stories and encounters, how they overcame their initial hesitation in handling the bird specimens, and how creating studies from the actual specimens transformed their experience of drawing birds, and, ultimately, themselves.

Plant of the Week: Tilia cordata (Small-leaved Linden)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Summer has truly arrived at Wave Hill when the linden trees flower. We have several fine examples of the small-leaved linden (Tilia cordata) and they are in full bloom right now.

Our lindens can be spotted near Wave Hill House,shown in the first and second shots below—one from the east and the second from the south—and on the roadway between the Perkins Visitor Center and Glyndor House, pictured last.setting-1

setting-2setting-3Honey bees love the sweet-scented flowers of the linden and the sound of thousands of them happily gathering nectar on a warm afternoon is delightful.close-up

Native to Europe and parts of western Asia, the small-leaved linden has been planted in parks and used as a street tree in cities around the world, perhaps most notably in Berlin, where it is the tree for which the famous boulevard of Unter den Linden is named.


Plant of the Week: Primula bulleyana (Bulley’s Primrose)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

The orange-flowered Bulley’s primrose (Primula bulleyana) is one of several species of candelabra primroses. close-up

All display their blooms in whorled tiers, stacked vertically on a tall stem.layering

Native to the forested mountains of Yunnan in China, it is growing in a perfect spot at  western end of our Shade Border, not far from Wave Hill House. The soil there is deep and moist and the surrounding trees provide just the right amount of shade.setting-2

setting-1The specific epithet bulleyana honors Arthur Bulley, a British nurseryman who introduced many new plants to the horticultural trade in the early 20th century.

The word primrose (and the genus name Primula) is derived from the Latin word primus, meaning first, because certain species of primrose are some of the earliest plants to bloom in spring.

Plant of the Week: Paeonia ‘Madame de Verneville’ (Peony Cultivar)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

It is peony time in the Flower Garden and their pink, white and red—even yellow—blooms, have been popping open in every bed.the-setting

There are many species of peonies, native to various parts of the world, but the familiar garden peony (Paeonia lactiflora) has only ever been seen in its cultivated form. Raised in China by skilled gardeners many centuries ago, it is most likely that wild species were deliberately hybridized to produce varieties with a huge range of flower shape, color and scent.

Introduced to Europe in the early 19th century, the garden peony was originally referred to as the “white peony” because the white flowers of many of the early introductions. (Lactiflora indicates milk-colored flowers.) Breeders in France and Britain soon took up the process of raising new varieties by further hybridization and selection.

The French horticulturist François Félix Crousse (1840‒1925) raised several that are still grown today, including the pink-flowered ‘Monsieur Jules Ellie’, the deep-red ‘Felix Crousse’ and, one of our favorites, the lovely ‘Madame de Verneville’.the-plant

‘Mme. de Verneville’ has massive, white flowers that are flecked with odd splashes of deep crimson and possesses a strong, rose-like scent.close-up

She and her many companions are at their peak this week and are well worth a visit.

Plant of the Week: Coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’ (Mouse-ear Tickseed cultivar)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

The mouse-ear tickseed (Coreopsis auriculata) is native to the southeastern United States, where it is found in open woodland and pine barrens. the-plant

It blooms earlier than other species of tickseed, and is usually covered in orange-yellow flowers by late spring.close-up

‘Nana’ is a low-growing cultivar and makes a handsome ground cover, as can be seen in the Wild Garden now.the-setting

Members of the genus Coreopsis are commonly called “tickseeds” for the rather obvious reason that the seeds could indeed be mistaken for small, black ticks. The mouse-ear part of the common name refers to the small lobes at the base of each leaf, which look a little like the ears of a mouse.mouse-ears