June 01, 2021

Summertime Scavenger Hunt 2021

June 2021 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

As a managed green space, Madison Square Park is a vital source of food and shelter for native and migrating fauna throughout the year. By documenting wildlife we can help protect the health of the park. Below we highlight some of the species you can help track down and document on iNaturalist:

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Can you find these purple and pink pom-poms of butterfly joy?

Brown-belted Bumble Bee(Bombus griseocollis)
These bumble bees are adorably fuzzy, and also incredibly important to our local ecosystems! There's plenty of these brown-belted busy bees buzzing through the Park. Help us document the Bombus griseocollis!

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
We love dragonflies at Madison Square Park! Pachydiplax longipennis are a great indicator of a healthy ecosystem. So if you find one, let us know.

Cicada (Family Cicadidae )
The star of the season, Cicadidae, have been all over the news and your social media. Help document the Park's cicadas and continue a tradition that has been around since 1715!

Silver Haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
Shhhh. Lasionycteris noctivagans will sometimes stop by the park for a snooze. If you are at Madison Square Park in the evening, let us know if you see one!

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)
These small yellow birds love to hide from passersby. See if you can find an Ovenbird hiding in the bushes as you walk through the Park.

American Elm (Ulmus americana)
Celebrate the 4th of July by documenting the condition of our towering Ulmus americana!

Powdery Mildew (Order Erysiphales)
Look for white powdery spots on the leaves and stems of the Park's plants! This is a disease called powdery mildew, and identifying it can help us keep the Park plants healthy.

Visit our website to learn more about our scavenger hunt or click here to download the full scavenger hunt work sheet!

Posted on June 01, 2021 12:14 by mspceco mspceco | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 04, 2021

Springtime Scavenger Hunt 2021

March 2021 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

As a managed green space, Madison Square Park is a vital source of food and shelter for native and migrating fauna throughout the year. By documenting wildlife we can help protect the health of the park. Below we highlight some of the species you can help track down and document on iNaturalist:

Texas Leafcutter (Megachile texana)
Megachile texana have been spotted nectaring at Worth Square and at the Lambs Ears at the entrance of 23rd and Madison. Where else can you find these small grayscale bees?

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
The state flower of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, Kalmia latifolia, can be found in Madison Square Park! Hint: look for a solitary Cherry Tree.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Believe it or not, there are a few plants that have yet to be documented at Madison Square Park Aronia arbutifolia is one of those plant species. April is their time to shine. Help us document the Red Chokeberry!

Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)
Local naturalist, David J. Ringer was able to spot a Setophaga citrina at Central Park! Can you spot this small yellow and black bird at Madison Square Park?

Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Xylocopa virginica bees are early spring bees at the Park. They've been spotted near the early blooming Carolina Silverbell.

Common Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Serviceberry bloom in the early months of spring. Their fruit are similar in shape to blueberries, but red! Can you find them at the Park?

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
These plants are native to eastern New York and can be found at the Park. Be on the lookout for their distinctive blue bell shaped flowers!

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Keep an eye out high in the tree tops to spot the Poecile atricapillus.

Visit our website to learn more about our scavenger hunt or click here to download the full scavenger hunt work sheet!

Posted on March 04, 2021 14:30 by mspceco mspceco | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 25, 2021

2021 City Nature Challenge: Park-by-Park Competition

Madison Square Park Conservancy and Macaulay Honors College Present...

2021 City Nature Challenge: Park-by-Park Competition

Friday, April 30– Monday, May 3, 2021


Help Create a More Ecologically Friendly City

Over 300 cities around the world will participate in the City Nature Challenge to connect people to nature using the iNaturalist app. This Spring, all NYC green spaces are invited to host a bioblitz during the City Nature Challenge to document NYC’s natural environment. With observations from community members across the city, each green space will collect valuable data to help nurture and protect the species that call New York City home.

Spread the Word

Invite community members to take part in the 4-day bioblitz on social media, park signage, and your website.

Develop a Program

Join a virtual training event, February 11th at Noon to learn more about hosting a bioblitz, onboarding volunteers, and analyzing and using the observations collected.

Participate in the Park-by-Park Competition

During the 4-day bioblitz, participants will use social media to challenge competing green spaces. To keep things interesting, we expect friendly smack-talk between groups!

Earn Bragging Rights for Your Green Space

Winners of the Competition will be determined based on the most observations, the most participants, and the most interesting observations.

Register

To join the Park-by-Park Challenge and learn more about virtual training session or other ways to get involved please complete this form by February 5, 2021

Posted on January 25, 2021 16:10 by mspceco mspceco | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 29, 2020

Summer Wildlife: Life on the Oval Lawn

July 29, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

The lush green lawns found throughout Madison Square Park are a blend of various types of grasses that host a diverse collection of wildlife. Today, we take a closer look at the ground beneath us and highlight life on the Oval Lawn.

Alsike Clovers, Trifolium hybridum
Trifolium hybridum bursting from pink to white over the sea of green.

Did you know that one of the plants that blends into the surface of the Oval could bring you some fortune? Clovers consist of over 300 species and belong to the pea family. Clover is great for the lawn and actually helps fertilize the grass by fixing nitrogen—elements essential to lawn health. They can be found in patches across the lawn and tend to flower from late spring through summer. These delicate flowers become a rare source of food for pollinators foraging across the ocean of lawn grass, and are especially attractive to honey bees, bottle flies, and small hoverflies. Watch your step and you might even find a four leaf clover in the mix!

Milky Conecap, Conocybe apala
Conocybe apala near the end of their lifespans after a heavy rain period at Madison Square Park.

Emerging from the grassy surface, Milky Conecap mushrooms of the genus conocybe have found a brief home on the Oval Lawn. These fragile fungal friends are short lived—lasting only about 24 hours—and can be found on the lawns after heavy rains from June through October. They are also extremely fragile and will often crumble when handled, so we recommend avoiding them.

Groundsel Bush Beetle, Trirhabda bacharidis
A Trirhabda bacharidis beetle swinging from blade to blade through the Oval Lawn grasses.

Every day many beetles trek across the Oval Lawn in search for food and suitable nesting grounds. Some simply stop for rest and shelter along their extensive migration. Trirhabda bacharidis beetles are one of the many beetles on this journey. They look for specific tastes and will not stop to eat or nest until they find plants in the Baccharis genus (hence their latin name). The groundsel bush beetle's black and yellow pattern can often be confused with those of striped cucumber beetles and elm leaf beetles that are also found in the Park. Adults emerge from their larval state in April and can be spotted within the grassy surface through the Fall season.

Local naturalists, birders, and online data collection platforms such as iNaturalist and eBird help us track biodiversity. To learn more about the insects and other flora and fauna throughout Madison Square Park, visit our iNaturalist and eBird pages, or read more about our ongoing initiative to support our local wildlife.

Posted on July 29, 2020 13:42 by mspceco mspceco | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 24, 2020

Madison Square Park Pollinators I

July 24, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

Over thousands of years, pollinators found in Madison Square Park have coevolved with regional plants to transfer pollen between male and female flower parts. In return, the pollinators feed on nectar for energy and pollen for protein, keeping them alive throughout their lifecycle.

Here are a few pollinators you can find in Madison Square Park:

Apis mellifera is a bit of a polarizing species within the bee community. Although western honey bees are vital pollinators for many wild plants and the global agricultural industry, they are non native to North America. Because of this, they will often out compete native species for resources, threatening their existence and the global ecosystem. Because they have a generalist diet, you can spot western honey bees around almost any nectar producing flower in the Park. In addition to honey bees, the Park is also a host for many native species of bees like mason bees, leafcutter bees, and carpenter bees.

When someone refers to a fly, most of us immediately conjure up images of the pesky house fly, but like us, flies come in all shapes and sizes. Many hoverflies and flowerflies like those in the genus Syrphus actually mimic the appearance of bees to avoid predators, and like bees they are also a very important pollinator in a healthy ecosystem. Like other pollinators, flies rely on a reliable food supply of nectar and pollen. These hoverflies can be found in the Park throughout the year but are more active during the spring to fall months.

Butterflies and moths are some of the most charismatic pollinators, and a keystone species for a happy and healthy ecosystem. The Papilio glaucus is an especially charismatic species due the radiant yellow wings and contrasting black tiger stripes that give it it’s common name. While both males and females come in this form, the female can also come in a mostly black variant. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails inhabit the region from May through September, where adults will nectar on plants like cherry laurel (photographed) and milkweed. Keep an eye for swallowtails, monarchs, and other butterflies and moths from summer through the fall.

Another natural predator of the aphid, Coccinella are some of the cutest pollinators at the Park. Their small frame allows them to feed on nectar and pollen from tightly constructed flowers that larger bees and butterflies cannot reach. Lady beetles also have a tremendous appetite for aphids, and consume up to 5,000 aphids in a lifetime! As they search for the tiny leaf suckers, lady beetles inadvertently carry pollen from flower to flower and protect many plants from an over infestation of aphids.

Local naturalists, birders, and online data collection platforms such as iNaturalist and eBird help us track biodiversity. To learn more about the insects and other flora and fauna throughout Madison Square Park, visit our iNaturalist and eBird pages, or read more about our ongoing initiative to support our local wildlife.

Posted on July 24, 2020 17:04 by mspceco mspceco | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 18, 2020

Summer Wildlife: Fireflies at Dusk

July 18, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

As a managed green space, Madison Square Park is a vital source of food and shelter for native and migrating fauna throughout the year. This summer, we highlight a living light show that utilizes the Park in the pursuit of a suitable summer mate.

As the fireworks fade into the summer, another light show begins to take place in the heart of Madison Square Park. Adult Photinus pyralis beetles, also known as the common eastern firefly, begin to emerge from the cooler, more damp Park grounds and take to the sky with their flashy, aerial choreography.

A Photinus pyralis female looks for a better vantage point to scout out the hopeful males.

Although they seize our attention during the summer nights, P. Pyralis have been glowing since birth. Firefly eggs emit a slight glow that is visible to the naked eye––that’s if you can find them buried under the leaflitter and shrubbery in the Park. After about four weeks, they hatch into flightless larvae, where they will usually spend most of their lives living in the soil. The firefly larvae, also known as glow worms, are vicious predators. At night, they hunt slugs, snails, worms, and other insects, injecting its prey with digestive enzymes to immobilize it and liquefy its remains. After one to two years in the larval stage, the developing firefly moves into small pockets in the moist soil and pupates. While pupating, it undergoes metamorphosis, emerging from the pupa as an adult.

The P. pyralis female responds to a potential suitor.

During the early summer days, adult fireflies will find refuge in the plant beds and bushes. Around dusk, they begin to prepare for their main objective as adults. P. pyralis use their bioluminescent abdomens to attract mates during summer nights. Typically, the male flies low to the ground, flashing a mating signal. A female resting on vegetation will then respond to the male. By repeating this exchange, the male is able to home in on her, after which, they will mate. It is widely believed that P. pyralis fireflies refuse to feed as adults—they simply mate, produce offspring, and die.

If you are in the Park after sundown, keep an eye out for a hovering light show by Oval, Elm, Sol Lewitt, and Magnolia lawns. We ask that you avoid injuring our glowing friends, and if you happen to capture any of these creatures on camera, upload your images to iNaturalist to help us track biodiversity at Madison Square Park.

Posted on July 18, 2020 18:03 by mspceco mspceco | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 09, 2020

Summer Wildlife in the Park

July 09, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

As a managed green space, Madison Square Park is a vital source of food and shelter for native and migrating fauna throughout the year. This summer, we highlight a few flying fauna that utilize the Park for their essentials during the summer season.

Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Xylocopa virginica poking its head into a blooming Carolina Silverbell flower.

At first glance, one might confuse the eastern carpenter bee for the more well-known bumble bee, but look again and notice Xylocopa virginica is slightly larger and boasts an almost completely black abdomen that is shinier and less fuzzy than a bumble bee. Eastern carpenter bees nest over during the winter months with their sisters, typically living for over two years. Starting in April, the eldest sisters take charge by foraging for food, mating, and maintaining the nest, while the youngest sisters and male bees protect the nest from intruders. The second generation bees will begin senescence in July. During this time, the older bees will more frequently rest on flowers and eventually die off. The following spring, it is believed that the younger sisters will assume the role left by their elders, and begin the cycle again.

Bar-Winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)
An elusive bar-winged skimmer dragonfly resting by the reflecting pool.

Libellula axilena is a dragonfly species that belongs to the genus of chasers and skimmers, distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They are well-known, large dragonflies, and can often be seen flying around the Reflecting Pool during the summer. The bar-winged skimmers, pictured above, are especially charismatic due to their stylistic wing and body patterns. Like other dragonflies, bar-winged skimmers play a vital predatorial role in the ecosystem. They will chase down and snatch many different types and sizes of prey including mosquitos with great efficiency. This is great for all of us that enjoy sitting by the Reflecting Pool!

Common Eastern Firefly (Photinus pyralis)
A female P. pyralis beetle seeking a suitor on the Oval Lawn

What’s a summer night without a light show? Photinus pyralis is the most common firefly in North America, and despite its common name, is actually a type of beetle. During the summer days, adult fireflies will find refuge in the plant beds and bushes, and like other fireflies, P. pyralis use their bioluminescent abdomens to attract mates during summer nights. If you are in the Park after sundown, keep an eye out for a hovering light show by Oval, Elm, Sol Lewitt, and Magnolia lawns.

Posted on July 09, 2020 16:10 by mspceco mspceco | 3 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 08, 2020

Meet the Trees: Cercis Canadensis (Eastern Redbud)

May 08, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

Madison Square Park’s redbud trees put on a show every spring! Commonly known as Eastern Redbud, this small to medium-sized tree is native to North America and Asia.

A beautiful burst of pink Cercis canadensis flowers.

As a member of the family Fabaceae, the redbud is related to several other plants that grace the Park with their presence, including cassias, wisteria, and black locust. Plants of this family are related to the peas and beans, and the relationship is noticeable in their flowers. The flowers of the redbud, as well as other members of Fabacea, are very similar to those of a pea flower, often having an upper petal that looks like two fused together (a banner) and two lower petals actually fused together (the keel) that enclose the flower’s reproductive parts.

Redbud flowers borne along its bark.

For redbuds, in particular, close inspection will reveal the presence of a keel, but no banner. The keel protects the reproductive parts from rain until a pollinator visits the flower. Here at the Park, these pollinators are often honeybees, bumblebees, or native leaf-cutting bees, which also cut out distinctive (but only cosmetically damaging) holes in redbud leaves. Redbuds flower early in the season, with flowers borne along the branches of the tree rather than only at the apex of stems. The odd location of the flowers makes for a gorgeous site when these trees bloom in early spring. The flowers are present before the leaves develop, allowing for a floral display with little distraction. Following flowering, redbuds develop long, dry seedpods called a legume that resemble a bean pod, another clue to their shared heritage.

Cercis canadensis at the 26th and Madison entrance

Thanks to our horticulturalists at Madison Square Park, we keep phenological data on our redbuds. Cercis sp. They are one of our five collection plants in the Park, with over 30 distinct cultivars present and more anticipated. While most are eastern redbud, a native to the eastern reaches of North America, there are several cultivars of Cercis chinensis, Chinese redbud, as well as a small number of other species.

Facts

  • Redbuds exhibit the phenomenon of cauliflory, where flowers are borne directly on their trunks and stems, rather than on newly produced shoots
  • The generic name, Cercis, is greek for “Weaver’s shuttle”, a reference to the resemblance of the seed pods to a weaving shuttle
  • Several species of Lepidopteran larvae feed on redbuds, including the cosmopolitan mouse moth, Amphipyra tragopoginis
  • Redbud bark, specifically C. chinensis, is used as an antiseptic agent in Chinese medicine
  • The flowers are edible and noted for having a refreshing, acidic taste that goes well in salads
Posted on May 08, 2020 15:23 by mspceco mspceco | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 24, 2020

Eastern Monarch Migration

April 24, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy


The beautiful markings of a Danaus plexippus.

In March, a great migration of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) departed from Central Mexico and the Southern United States using a combination of internal sun and magnetic “compasses” to migrate north. As of April, this kaleidoscope of monarchs has moved as far north as Virginia, mating, laying eggs, and nectaring along the way. Here, a new generation will continue the trip Northeast. By May, they will reach New York where the second and third generations will recolonize their eastern breeding grounds throughout the summer and into fall.


A monarch looking for nectar from park flowers.

Monarch butterflies call Madison Square Park home from May through September, and it's always a special event to see them. Witnessing multiple generations of monarchs is a sign that our horticulture team has planted enough Milkweed to sustain our visitors. Milkweed leaves are vital to the development of eggs and become food for the hatching monarch caterpillars. Finally, the butterflies emerge, nectaring on the flowers, before beginning the cycle once more. In September and October, the final generation of monarchs will be born, eat, and metamorphose, but unlike the first three generations that only live for two to six weeks, this generation lives longer. Migratory monarchs spend six to eight months migrating back to the Southern United States and the mountains of Central Mexico where they will spend the winter waiting for the season to cycle anew.

Posted on April 24, 2020 18:32 by mspceco mspceco | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 19, 2020

Meet the Trees: Prunus Mume (Japanese Apricot)

March 19, 2020 • Madison Square Park Conservancy

Our first member of the cherry family is blooming in the Park!

A beautiful burst of pink Prunus mume flowers.

Prunus mume, the Japanese apricot or flowering apricot, is one of the earliest flowering members of its genus. Prunus includes stone fruit relatives such as the sakura, almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, and peaches. Japanese apricots are attractive ornamental trees, with over 300 named cultivars registered.


Closeup of a Prunus mume flower.

Despite its name, P. mume is actually native to China and Korea, not Japan. Its common name, however, reflects its extensive cultivation in Japan over the past 1,500 years where it has been used as the main ingredient in plum liquor.


Closeup of Prunus mume bark.

Japanese apricot’s flower in late winter. The flowers can be single or double in shades of red, pink, or white. Their late winter bloom is one of the earliest sources of food for pollinators in the area, and a vital source of food for bees during warmer winters.


Warmer winters mean bees, like the honey bee pictured here, will be foraging much earlier.

After flowering, the tree produces leaves and develops the small fruits that lend this tree its name. The apricots, though superficially similar to the commonly-eaten Siberian Apricot (Prunus armeniaca), are of far inferior quality and ripen during the summer. While edible, the fruit is regarded as too bitter to be enjoyable; however, the fruit makes excellent jams and preserves.


The prunus mume located across Shake Shack is selfie friendly and a local favorite!

Japanese apricots were introduced to the West via imports to Britain in the mid-1800’s. The specific name, mume, is one variation of the Japanese name for a member of the species Prunus.

Posted on March 19, 2020 23:00 by mspceco mspceco | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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