Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Citizen Science at Duke Gardens: Project BudBurst and eBird

American witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
by Erika Zambello

Technology and the rise of the internet have allowed for the expansion of citizen science projects, in which the general public of all ages can participate in collecting data and observations. These studies are not only engaging and informative for the citizen scientists themselves, they are also a valuable way to gather vast amounts of information. Duke Gardens is both an active citizen science partner and a fun location for local citizen science projects.

At Duke Gardens, two nationwide projects are particularly popular. Project BudBurst began in 2007 as a way to monitor plants across the United States. As one of their seven botanic garden partners, Duke Gardens is an excellent place to observe both native and non-native plant species. As part of BudBurst, volunteers go out into the Gardens and carefully observe plants in different phenophases ("an observable stage or phase in the annual life cycle of a plant or animal") throughout the year. Once the data is collected, volunteers then record their observations and submit them to the Project BudBurst website.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
Do you have to be a plant specialist to participate in Project BudBurst? Absolutely not! With easy to follow online tutorials on what to look for when observing, citizen scientists of any age can submit their observations. In addition to specialist volunteers, school classes, church groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, visitors to botanic gardens, senior groups and more have all contributed to Project BudBurst.

Submitting an eBird checklist is another way visitors to Duke Gardens can participate in a citizen science project. It is relatively easy to learn the common bird species, and once a birder becomes comfortable with a few varieties he or she can explore the Gardens and keep track of species seen and the observed number of individuals in each species. Using a computer or the eBird cell phone app, birders can quickly complete a checklist and voila, their data has been recorded!

Gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
Duke Gardens is an especially good place to learn new birds and practice identifying familiar ones. The Blomquist Garden features bird feeders in its Steve Church Endangered Species Garden, as well as more feeders facing the beautiful Bird Viewing Shelter and at the President's Bridge entrance from Flowers Drive. The Asiatic Arboretum has its own feeders near the Garden Pond, complete with benches so birders can observe for as long as they want in comfort. All three locations provide great opportunities to watch feeder birds and practice identification skills, and you can quickly submit your sightings to eBird. 110 checklists have been logged in Duke Gardens so far!

Bird viewing shelter. Photo by Orla Swift
Whether you're partial to plants, birds, bees, frogs, or other nature creatures, there is a citizen science project out there for you. Do you have a different citizen science project that you love? Tell us about it! We'd love to feature it on our blog.

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Plant Sale Preview: Duke Gardens plants

Musa velutina

By Kaitlin Henderson
Photos by Beth Hall

As we prepare for tomorrow's 2014 Fall Plant Sale, we thought you might like to see another preview of some of the plants we'll be offering. It's one thing to see them in their plant pots -- even more fun to see them out in Duke Gardens, where you can get a better idea of how they could enhance your own garden. So have a look below at some beautiful plants that grow well in this region. The sale is from 9 a.m. to noon, with a member preview sale at 8 a.m. (and you can join on site). Parking is free.

The first plant, pictured above, is a fun one that I featured on this blog earlier - the pink velvet banana. It’s a hardy tropical banana plant that’s deer resistant. It grows in full sun to partial shade, and grows up to 8 feet tall and wide. It produces white flowers and pink fruit, which makes a great tropical impression in your garden. You can find it already growing here in the Doris Duke Center Gardens.

Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’

The osmanthus is a great ornamental evergreen that you can see in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. It has holly-like, variegated leaves and is deer resistant. It grows up to 3-5 feet tall and wide and has an amazing fragrance when in bloom.

Sambucus nigra

The purple-leaved elderberry above is a gorgeous ornamental shrub that gets up to 8 feet tall and wide. In the late spring to early summer it produces deep pink or purple flowers over its dark purple leaves. You can find some in the Historic Gardens to get an idea of what it looks like.

Sedum tetractinum

Chinese sedum is an evergreen ground cover that grows in sun or shade. In the summer, it produces small yellow flowers. It’s great for path edges or garden borders. Here in the Gardens, it’s abundant in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.

Tinantia pringlei

This is Mexican spiderwort, a deciduous perennial with beautiful purple accents. You can find it in the Historic Gardens. Its leaves are green-purple in color with purple spots. The purple-white flowers bloom throughout summer. It likes full sun to light shade and grows 1-1.5-feet tall and wide.

Aster taraticus

Taratian asters are great pollinator perennials. They grow 3-4 feet high and are spreading, so they're perfect in the back border of gardens. Purple and yellow flowers emerge in the fall, which you can catch now in the Historic Gardens. They need full sun to partial shade.

Callicarpa americana

The American Beautyberry is native to the southeast U.S. (including here in North Carolina) and you can see plenty of them in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. It's a large deciduous shrub that likes full sun and will grow up to 8 feet tall and wide. In the summer it produces small lavender-colored flowers, which give way in the fall to the bright purple berries you can see now. They're great wildlife plants - birds love to eat the berries.

Camellia sinensis

This beautiful plant is also very popular for a practical reason: the tea camellia is used to make tea! It's native to China but grows very well here, as you can see in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. It gets 6-8 feet high and wide, with white and yellow flowers in the fall. It's very versatile, growing in full sun to full shade.

Eurybia divaricata

White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata) is another plant local to this area of the U.S. It grows best in woodland shade settings and makes a fantastic border or path edge. In the fall it has numerous dainty white flowers, which you can see in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants.

Gymnaster savatieri

The Japanese aster produces these cheerful, light purple flowers with a bright yellow center in the late summer through fall. They grow 1-2 feet tall and are wonderful border plants. You can check them out in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.

Hedychium coccineum

This stunning and unique looking flower is the hardy ginger lily. The orange-peach flowers bloom in the late summer to fall. The plant gets up to 4 feet tall and likes to be in full sun to part shade. It adds a beautiful tropical accent to any garden, as you can see in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.

Tricyrtis macropoda

The spotted toad lily has a fun name and an equally fun look. You can see it growing in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. The uniquely shaped purple-pink flowers bloom in the late summer to fall. Its leaves have subtle purple spots. It grows to 1-2 feet tall and prefers woodland-like environments, shady and moist. 

Now that your appetite is whetted, we hope to see you Saturday morning to see these plants in person and take some of them home to your own garden! For more information, check out our previous blog post on the plant sale and our plant sale preview video. Duke Gardens' curators and horticulturists  will be there to answer any questions you have about the plants and growing them. You can become a Duke Gardens member anytime before or during the sale to get access to the 8 a.m. preview sale, to get first dibs on the plants you want. Enjoy!

Kaitlin Henderson is a student in Duke's Graduate Liberal Studies Program. Beth Hall is Duke Gardens' Paul J. Kramer Plant Collections Manager.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Species Spotlight: Pink Banana

Photo by Kaitlin Henderson
By Kaitlin Henderson

You may not have noticed this this big-leafed plant earlier in the year, but it’s drawing attention to itself now. It’s a banana plant (Musa velutina, the pink banana or pink velvet banana), and the pink areas are its flowers and fruit!

Photo by Kaitlin Henderson
The pink banana is native to Southeast Asia, and you can find it in Duke Gardens' Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Despite being pretty far north of the tropics, it grows very well here in Durham. The plant dies back in the winter and grows back every spring, producing the bright flowers and fruits you can see right now. 

The fruit will be on the plant until the first significant frost, so you have some time to get out and see it – I definitely recommend stopping by, as it’s eye-catching and fun to look at. If you come back earlier in the summer next year, you can try to catch the earlier flower that precedes the fruit.

Photo by Paul Jones
The fruit is quite different from the regular grocery store bananas you might be used to. They are small and nearly filled with pea-sized seeds, making them generally inedible. Some people here at the Gardens have tried them despite that. Asiatic Arboretum curator Paul Jones described the taste as not inviting but not repulsive, either. Hope Wilder, assistant education program coordinator, said the fruit was very starchy and a little bit sweet, but she didn’t much enjoy how seedy they were. That’s probably why they’re mostly used as decorative plants rather than for food.

The Pink Banana is one of the smaller banana plants. The other ones grown in the Gardens are three or four times as large. The Asiatic Arboretum has several other banana species, including the hardy Japanese banana (Musa basjoo) that you can see along the path through the Japanese-style gate as you enter from the Rose Garden.

Blogger Kaitlin Henderson is a student in Duke's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall Plant Sale Preview

By Erika Zambello

The 2014 Fall Plant Sale is only a few weeks away, and here at Duke Gardens we're gearing up for one of the best sales ever. To give you a preview, curator Jason Holmes selected some of his favorite plants that will on sale Saturday, Sept. 27, from 9 a.m.-noon (with a preview sale for Gardens members from 8-9 a.m.). Adding to the allure of this sneak peek, all plants featured in this article have been propagated from Duke Gardens!

First up, the toad lily. We will be selling multiple varieties with different coloration patterns, such as white with purple spots, purple with white spots, and variegated and unvariegated leaves. Toad lilies are shade lovers, and they will bloom in late summer and early fall. They are excellent attractors for pollinators, but they are also attractive to rabbits.

toad lily

This year Duke Gardens will also sell an unusual sage, which is shade loving and produces yellow flowers. Japanese yellow sage (Salvia koyamae) grows to about 2 feet high, and it will bloom throughout the summer.

Japanese yellow sage (Salvia koyamae)
The garden mums at the Fall Plant Sale are another unusual variety. They're perennials and will bloom in the fall year after year. The mums grow in full sun to light dappled shade, and they can grow to 2.5-feet tall. There are multiple colors available for sale, including pink, off-white, purple and yellow.

garden mum
The ginger lilies at the sale are difficult to find in regular greenhouses. Duke Gardens will sell two varieties, Hedychium greenii and Hedychium coccineum. The former has rare red flowers as well as reddish underleaves, and it will bloom throughout the fall. Reaching a height of 3 feet, this variety is a hardy plant. By contrast, the latter can reach impressive heights of 6 feet, with orange-red blossoms. Both grow in full sun to partial shade and are perennial species.

ginger lily
Last but definitely not least, the plant sale will include the iconic American beautyberries. These trees reach 8 feet tall, and in the fall they feature gorgeous purple berries. These berries are not only beautiful, they are magnets for natural pollinator and bird species.

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

The Fall Plant Sale will feature these fun plants as well as many more. Stay tuned for further updates, and come check it out for yourself!

Parking is free during the sale, which will be behind the Doris Duke Center. If you'd like to get first dibs on plants by attending the member preview sale, and you're not yet a member, you can join in advance by calling 919-668-1711. You may also join on site the morning of the sale. Membership information here.

More information on our website.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Warblers of Duke Gardens

Blackburnian warblers migrate through North Carolina in the spring. Photo by Erika Zambello
By Erika Zambello

Every spring, brightly feathered neotropical migrants descend on North Carolina and across the United States, here for the summer to raise families on the plentiful food available in the warmer months. Warblers, with their blues, yellows, reds, oranges and greens, are little residents of Central and South America, who make impressive annual pilgrimages of hundreds and thousands of miles.

While many species of warblers move through North Carolina on their way to New England and Canada, many other species spend the summer right here in Duke Gardens. The common yellowthroat, with a yellow body and a black mask across its eyes, can be seen around the bird feeders in the Gardens and are indeed quite common. 

Common Yellowthroat. Photo by Erika Zambello
My personal favorite, the northern parula, is also a common sighting in the summer throughout the eastern United States. One of the most colorful warblers, parulas have blue backs with bright yellow and orange throats. Their signature white eye ring gives them the air of a cartoon character, and even when they are difficult to see their signature buzzy call alerts everyone to their presence.

Northern Parula. Photo by Erika Zambello
There are many of species of warblers, and visitors to the Gardens should keep their peepers peeled for black-and-white warblers, worm-eating warblers, and American redstarts, just to name a few. Though their colors are not as bright as their first visit in the spring, all the migrating warblers will pass through again in the fall, giving birders an opportunity to see those species that spend much of their time north of the Carolinas.

Pine Warbler. Photo by Erika Zambello
Missing the warblers when they migrate away in the fall? Don't worry, both pine and yellow-rumped warblers make their winter homes in Duke Gardens. Though the yellow-rumped warblers sport much more drab colors in the winter, pine warblers are still the brightest of yellows, like little droplets of sunshine against the white snow. They are most often seen on the feeders located in the Steve Church Endangered Species Garden.

If you've seen beautiful warblers this summer, or are looking out for them in the fall, be sure to fill out an eBird checklist of your counts! There have been more than 100 bird species recorded in Duke Gardens from 109 checklists, and we'd love to see yours!

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Duke Gardens Photo Contest: Shapes

Duke Gardens Pergola. Photo by Orla Swift

Our latest photo contest centers on the abstract and yet everyday: shapes. We'd love to see your favorite shapes from Duke Gardens -- whether they be in plants, branches, structures, reflections, or anywhere else you can find interesting shapes.

Please don't be shy. This exhibit and contest is open to photographers at all levels and all ages. It's simply a fun way to share your love for the Gardens with others who love it here, too. 

Here's the scoop: 

HOW TO ENTER: Email up to 3 photos to DukeGardensPhotos@yahoo.com. Please send one per email. We will post them in an album on Facebook, with your Facebook name in the photo description. You may then add more information about the photo in the comments if you like, and encourage your friends to come see it and vote by clicking "like." You may also post the photo on our wall, but be sure to email it as well, so that it's officially in the contest and albums. Only "like" votes on the album photos will count in vote tallies, though (polite) comments are welcome, too.  

Please be sure to see our etiquette page before posting, too, as we will not include photos of people climbing trees, playing sports or engaging in other activities that are not permitted at the Gardens.   

DEADLINE: Photos must be submitted by noon Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. Voting will end at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 7 

HOW TO VOTE: It's simple. Just click "like" for all your favorite photos. 

PRIZES: We'll have prizes for most "like" votes, as well as judges' awards. Prizes will include Terrace Shop discount coupons and other Duke Gardens-related gifts. Each entrant may only win one prize per contest (though he/she may win top votes and also a judge's award).

Photo by Erika Zambello

SHARE: Even if you're not interested in prizes or contests, we'd love for you to share your photos just for fun, and share our contest photo album with your own Facebook friends. We look forward to seeing your favorites. 

ELIGIBILITY: Anyone of any age may share Duke Gardens photos in this contest. The only people not eligible to win a prize are Duke Gardens employees.  

NOTE: This contest is not administered, endorsed or operated by Facebook.   

SEE THE ENTRIES: Once we've received our first entries, we'll post an album to Facebook and link to it here.

LEARN MORE: Please check out our education and event listings for photo courses that you may enjoy. We also have a Nature Photography Certificate program that may interest you.

Photo by Erika Zambello