A Tree Persists in Brooklyn

The first pages of children’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn describe eleven-year-old Francie Nolan sitting on her Brooklyn fire escape, daydreaming that she lives in a tree. For Francie, it wasn’t hard to imagine; tree limbs curled gracefully around the fire escape, shading her from the summer sun with umbrellas of pointed leaves. The tree […]

The Great Eucalyptus Debate

The Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is a magnificent tree. That is perhaps the only thing that everyone agrees on. It is, as Jake Sigg puts it, “a big, grand, old tree.” Tall, gnarled, stripey-barked, with white flowers like sea anemones, blue gum eucalyptus are characteristic of the San Francisco Bay area, despite being native […]

It’s Pretty, but It’s Bad News

It’s August, and that means the porcelainberries are out. The first time I noticed this plant, somewhere on the walk between home and work, I had no idea what I was seeing. Grapes? The leaves looked like grapes, but the fruits looked like so much more. Some kind of fabulous Easter confection. Chocolate covered in […]

Guest Post: The Lizards of Hastings-on-Hudson

The legend begins thus: In 1967 — or maybe it was ’66 — a pet store truck overturned in Long Island, sending a few dozen finger-length Italian wall lizards scampering into the bushes of Garden City. There Podarcis siculus thrived, slurping up arthropods along rock walls and sidewalks, dodging beaks and claws and tires. Over the decades, […]

Rainbow Connection

The other day, as our kids played around a big, messy tree–one with patchy bark and drooping sickle-shaped leaves–a friend told me she was going to show me a picture of a eucalyptus she knew I would love. A eucalyptus? Not one of these troublesome trees, I thought. But then she held up her phone. I peered in […]

Sour Grass

Oh, but I was proud of myself yesterday. The rain was coming, at last, at last, and I had an hour and a willing assistant and with these two things I removed nearly all of the oxalis flowers from my front yard. Without flowers, the seeds would not fall, the rain would not sow them, […]

Florida’s Python Problem

Last weekend I heard a story I won’t soon forget. Bob Freer, who runs an animal rescue shelter in the Everglades, appeared on a rerun of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and he began to talk about Florida’s python problem. Of course, I knew Florida had a python problem. But there’s knowing, and then there’s […]

Snark Week: Hoppin’ down the bunny trail–to hell!

Their fur is so soft. Their paws are velvet. And the twitch of their little noses can send people into paroxysms of baby talk. But behind that cute little “bunny” is a fearsome rabbit, ready to destroy everything in its path. Yes, the true nature of the rabbit is starting to come to light.