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Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Asclepias physocarpa

Lantana (Lantana camara)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I was extremely disappointed when a pelagic trip to the Hudson Canyon was cancelled late last night. I'd never been 50 miles out to sea and looked foward to seeing many new seabirds, as well as, marine life. Oh well, what can you do. I woke up late and decided to take a walk to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

During a visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last year I photographed a very peculiar looking plant. I searched the ground beneath the plant trying to locate a plaque with its common name. I never found one so I checked Internet sources. Still nothing. Today I found that the same tall plant was again thriving at the borders surrounding the Lily Ponds. My wife and I began talking with a woman named "Sue", who was also fascinated by the plant. She lead us to a small, white plastic identification marker stuck in the soil beneath a stand of the plants. "Asclepias physocarpa" was printed on the marker.

We were intrigued by the plant's translucent green seedpods. I thought that they were filled with air but Sue pointed out that they held thousands of tiny, feathery seeds that carried on the wind like wispy parachutes. When we returned home I learned that it is also known as the "Swan Plant".

Swan Plant (Asclepias physocarpa)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn why it's called "Swan Plant"-

As we were standing and chatting in front of a stand of Swan Plants I spotted a patch of bright orange on one of the stalks. A closer look revealed a mass of minute, orange insects. They looked like aphids but had four or five black spikes on their body. I took a series of photos and learned that they are Milkweed Aphids. I guess that Asclepias physocarpa is in the milkweed family.

Milkweed Aphid (Aphis nerii)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

It's a short walk from the Lily Ponds to the Native Flora section. We sat on the low, wooden railing at the edge of one of the kettle ponds and watched the bees and butterflies searching for nectar in patches of fading Cardinal flowers. I thought about my missing Red-tailed Hawks and wondered why they disappeared. I hoped that I'd find them again soon, hunting in the woods of the botanic gardens and Prospect Park as other, migrating hawks are now passing Brooklyn.

Other currently fruiting plants at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

"Asian" Wisteria (Wisteria spp.)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Wisteria-

Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Ohio Buckeye-

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Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 9/18/2005
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat

Other common birds seen (or heard):
Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow

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