Category Archives: Plants

Botany, Wired

A new initiative from the United States National Herbarium is beginning a crowdsourcing project to transcribe specimen data.

Specimens of the Tiliaceae Family. United States National Herbarium (US).
Specimens of the Tiliaceae Family. United States National Herbarium (US).

 

The United States National Herbarium was founded in 1848, and it now holds five million specimens, with a particular strength in type specimens. Housed in the botany collections of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History (NMNH), the herbarium’s collection is now part of a new crowdsourcing project that allows anyone with Internet access to view and transcribe data from specimens and contribute to the expansion of the herbarium’s collections database. It’s a terrific way to engage with plants as historical artifacts, design objects, and, of course, as botanical specimens, while essentially doing important work for the Smithsonian from the comfort of your own device.

After registration, which requires no special credentials or knowledge, you can begin transcribing the text from the labels into a web form. The data you enter, once approved, becomes part of the specimens’ record. Sylvia Orli, an information manager from the department of botany who helps facilitate the NMNH’s program, says the transcription project is part of a global effort to digitize natural history records. Within the NMNH, the department of botany is among the first to use the new crowdsourcing transcription tool, and several other units within the Smithsonian are participating as well.

Continue reading Botany, Wired

Mesquite: Texas Stubborn

The indomitable will of the mesquite tree is a source of Lone Star State pride and consternation.

By Constance Casey

SPECIES: Mesquite Trees, Christine Ten Eyck.
Mesquite Trees, Christine Ten Eyck. Adam Barbe, ASLA/Courtesy Ten Eyck Landscape Architects.

“I could ask for no better monument over my grave than a good mesquite tree, its roots down deep like those of people who belong to the soil, its hardy branches, leaves, and fruit holding memories of the soil.” Continue reading Mesquite: Texas Stubborn

Rooftop Farming Goes Mainstream

Lauren Mandel on the future of urban farming.

A European honeybee (Apis mellifera) cared for by Urban Apiaries, in Philadelphia. The hives live on the roof of the SHARE Food Program in North Philly. Photo by Lauren Mandel.
A European honeybee (Apis mellifera) cared for by Urban Apiaries, in Philadelphia. The hives live on the roof of the SHARE Food Program in North Philly. Photo by Lauren Mandel.

Lauren Mandel is one of rooftop agriculture’s more ardent cheerleaders, but also one of its most helpful handicappers. Her new book, Eat Up: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture is a complete guide to making rooftop agriculture work at various scales, and she’s not afraid to let people know about the challenges as well as benefits. We talked with Mandel about what’s going on in rooftop ag today and how farms are showing up in the most unlikely places. Continue reading Rooftop Farming Goes Mainstream

Sold Out

Courtesy Nelson Nursery
Courtesy Nelson Nursery

After a recession, a brake on plant production, and widespread nursery failures, finding the plants you want for a project could be tough.

By Anne Raver

After four long, slow years, the housing market is picking up, and landscape architects are beginning to get more calls about work. But after such a long slump, there’s a potentially big problem: Where are they going to find the high-quality plants they need? Continue reading Sold Out

A Trail of Stumps

Ipe is the most common tropical hardwood decking material in the United States, but the way it is harvested has raised concerns among ecologists. 

By Jane Hutton

Photo by Jane Hutton.

“This John Chipman bench was planted 500 years before Columbus sailed for America,” reads a Landscape Forms ad from a 1973 issue of this magazine. The familiar slatted bench is shown towering over a forest canopy. Its base is anchored to a colossal redwood stump. “When you have a site furnishing job to do, think about Chipman in 1,000-year-old redwood,” the ad says. “Even if your benches only have to last another 100 years.” Continue reading A Trail of Stumps