Monthly Archives: June 2011

Fujifilm x100 Ferris Wheel Fiesta

Fabulous Ferris Wheel, Gloucester Waterfront, St. Peter’s Fiesta

Ferris Wheel Gloucester St. Peter's Fiesta Fujifilm x100Shutter 1/60, f 2.2, ISO 4000

Ferris Wheel St. Peter's Fiesta Gloucester Fujifilm x100Shutter 1/2, f 14.0, ISO 4000

Ferris Wheel St. Peter's Fiesta Gloucester Fujifilm x100Shutter 125, f 2.o, ISO 4000

Ferris Wheel St. Peter's Fiesta Gloucester Fujifilm x100Shutter 125, f 2.8, ISO 400

Ferris Wheel St. Peter's Fiesta Gloucester Fujifilm x100Shutter 125, f 2.2, ISO 4000

Ferris Wheel St. Peter's Fiesta Gloucester Fujifilm x100Shutter 125, f2.0, ISO 4000Ferris Wheel St. Peter's Fiesta Gloucester Fujifilm x100

Ferris Wheel St. Peter's Fiesta Gloucester Fujifilm x100Shutter 1/60, f 2.5, ISO 4000

Thanks to husband Tom for helping me overcome my fear of heights. I so wanted to see the city from the top of the ferris wheel–stunning, fabulously fun, and all too brief–I didn’t want the ride to end!

Our Beautiful Native Sweet Bay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana ~ Sweet Bay Magnolia

Located in the heart of Ravenswood Park in Gloucester there is a stand of Magnolia virginiana growing in the Great Magnolia Swamp. It is the only population of Magnolia virginiana known to grow this far north. I took one look at the native sweet bay magnolia and breathed in the fresh lemon-honeysuckle scent of the blossoms, fell in love, and immediately set out to learn all I could about this graceful and captivating tree. Recently having returned from a trip to visit my family in northern Florida, I had tucked the bud of a Magnolia grandiflora into my suitcase. I was dreaming of someday having a garden large enough to accommodate a Magnolia grandiflora and was overjoyed to discover the similarities between M. virginiana and M. grandiflora. For those not familiar with the Southern magnolia, it is a grand, imposing specimen in the landscape, growing up to fifty feet in the cooler zones five and six, and one hundred feet plus in the southern states. M. grandiflora is the only native magnolia that is reliably evergreen in its northern range, flowering initially in the late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The creamy white flowers, enormous and bowl-shaped (ten to twelve inches across), emit a delicious, heady sweet lemon fragrance.

Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana Gloucester Massachusetts

In contrast, the flowers of the sweetbay magnolia are smaller, ivory white, water-lily cup shaped, and sweetly scented of citrus and honeysuckle. The leaves are similar in shape to the Magnolia grandiflora, ovate and glossy viridissimus green on the topside, though they are more delicate, and lack the leathery toughness of the Southern magnolia. The lustrous green above and the glaucous silvery green on the underside of the foliage creates a lovely ornamental bi-color effect as the leaves are caught in the seasonal breezes.

Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana bud Gloucester Massachusetts

Magnolia virginiana is an ideal tree for a small garden in its northern range growing to roughly twenty feet compared to the more commanding height of a mature Southern magnolia. Sweet bay grows from Massachusetts to Florida in coastal freshwater wetland areas as an understory tree. The tree can be single- or multi-stemmed. Sweet bay is a stunning addition to the woodland garden with an open form, allowing a variety of part-shade loving flora to grow beneath the airy canopy. The leaves are a larval food for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Almost immediately after planting we began to notice the swallowtails gliding from the sunny borders of the front dooryard, where an abundance of nectar-rich flowers are planted specifically to attract butterflies, around to the shady border in the rear yard where our sweet bay is located.

Our garden is continually evolving and part of our garden has given way to a limited version of a woodland garden, for the shady canopy created by the ever-growing ceiling of foliage of our neighbor’s trees has increasingly defined our landscape. We sited our Magnolia virginiana in our diminutive shaded woodland border where we can observe the tree from the kitchen window while standing at the kitchen sink. Gazing upon the tree bending and swaying gracefully in the wind, displaying its shifting bi-color leaves, provides a pleasant view when tending daily chores and the dreamy fragrance emitted from freshly opened blossoms make the chores all that less tiresome.

Excerpt from “Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!” Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine Publisher), written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

Magnolia virginiana in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Magnolia virginiana in Massachusetts written by Peter Del Tredici.

Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana Gloucester Massachusetts Fujifilm x100


The sweet bay magnolia swamp in Gloucester, Massachusetts has been a botanical shrine since its discovery in 1806. Early New England naturalists and botanists of all types, from Henry David Thoreau to Asa Gray, made pilgrimages to the site of this northern- most colony of Magnolza virginiana. The local residents of Gloucester were so impressed with a “southern”plant growing this far north that they changed the name oft he Kettle Cove section of the town to Magnolia in the mid-1800s. It is probably no coincidence that this name change occurred at the same time the area was starting up its tourist trade.

In addition to its isolation, the Gloucester Magnolia population was remarkable for having escaped notice until 1806 in an area that was settled in 1623. This fact has led at least one author to speculate that the colony was not wild but escaped from a cultivated plant (Anonymous, 1889). However, the overwhelming consensus of earlier botanists is that the population is, in fact, native. Whatever its origin, the swamp remains today the unique and mysterious place it has been for almost 200 years.

Very little has been written about the magnolia swamp in recent years. The latest, and best, article about it was wntten by Dr George Kennedy, and appeared in 1916 in Rhodora, the Journal of the New England Botanical Club. Dr. Kennedy summarized the history of the stand, and cleared up the confusion about who discovered it by publishing a letter he found, written by the Honorable Theophilus Parsons to the Reverend Manassah Cutler in 1806. The letter captures the emotion of the moment of discovery:

Reverend and Dear Sir:

In riding through the woods in Gloucester, that are between Kettle Cove and Fresh Water Cove I discovered a flower to me quite new and unexpected in our forests. This was last Tuesday week [July 22, 1806]. A shower approaching prevented my leaving the carriage for examination, but on my return, on Friday last, I collected several of the flowers, in different stages, with the branches and leaves, and on inspection it is unquestionably the Magnolia glauca Mr. Epes Sargent has traversed these woods for flowers and not having discovered it, supposes it could not have been there many years. It was unknown to the people of Gloucester and Manchester until I showed it to them. I think you have traversed the same woods herborizing. Did you dis-cover it? If not, how long has it been there? It grows in a swamp on the western or left side of the road as you go from Manchester to Gloucester, and before you come to a large hill over which the road formerly passed. It is so near the road as to be visible even to the careless eye of the traveler. Supposing the knowledge of this flower, growing so far north, might gratify you, I have made this hasty communication.

Your humble servant, Theoph. Parsons

To read Mr. Del Tredici’s fascinating article in full click here Magnolia virginiana in Massachusetts, including an excerpt from when Henry David Thoreau visited the swamp and wrote about it in his Journal.

Peter Del Tredici is a Senior Research Assistant at the Arnold Arboretum and Lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Peter writes the following for the Arnold Arboretum: “My research interests are wide ranging and mainly involve the interaction between woody plants and their environment. Over the course of thirty plus years at the Arnold Arboretum, I have worked with a number of plants, most notably Ginkgo biloba, conifers in the genera Tsuga and Sequoia, various magnolias, and several Stewartia species (family Theaceae). In all of my work, I attempt to integrate various aspects of the botany and ecology of a given species with the horticultural issues surrounding its propagation and cultivation. This fusion of science and practice has also formed the basis of my teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (since 1992), especially as it relates to understanding the impacts of climate change and urbanization on plants in both native and designed landscapes. Most recently, the focus of my research has expanded to the subject of spontaneous urban vegetation which resulted in the publication of “Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide” (Cornell University Press, 2010).”

Willowdale Estate Peacock

Driving into Willowdale this morning I encountered our neighborhood Indian Blue Peacock. Daily sightings have been reported and the entryway sign is his choice perch. The Fujifilm x100 performed remarkably, despite the lack of sunlight and steady drizzle.

From wiki: Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, a resident breeder in South Asia. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India and the provincial bird of the Punjab. The term peafowl can refer to the two species of bird in the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. Peafowl are best known for the male’s extravagant tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The male is called a peacock, and the female a peahen. The female peafowl is brown or toned grey and brown.

 Peacock Fujifilm x100

 Peacock Fujifilm x100Peacock Fujifilm x100

Snapshots from Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour

Thank you Good Morning Gloucester blog for posting the flyer for the Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour. I am so wrapped up in work and would have missed it otherwise. I could only get away for the last several hours of the tour and did not get to see all. From what I did see, English cottage garden and English country manner is the dominant style, with a heavy reliance on plants originating from Europe and Asia. I am always on the look out for design inspiration, particularly a creative and natural use of native plants, however, all the gardens were lovely and beautifully maintained. Often put forth is the argument that older American homes need be planted with popular European and Asian plants in order to maintain historical accuracy. Many of the estates along Boston’s North Shore were built during the period of the late 1800’s through the first several decades of the 20th century, when in fact, a great passion for native plants and wildflowers, and their use in the landscape, developed amongst home owners and landscape professionals alike.

Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour Gloucester MA

Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour Gloucester MA

Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour Gloucester MA

Lonicera 'Firecracker' Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour Gloucester MAThis beautifully growing and vigorous specimen of native Lonicera ‘Firecracker’ is a wonderful hummingbird magnet

Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour Gloucester MA

Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour Gloucester MA

Eastern Point Yacht Club Garden Tour Gloucester MAEuropean Copper Beech

Fujifilm x100 Butterflies!

I had planned to use my x100 for nearly everything–except butterflies and songbirds–what a pleasant surprise! Jpgs straight from the camera.

With an average wingspan of just under 1.5,” and because the butterfly was so well camouflaged in the  leaf litter, the x100 struggled to focus, but I and it persevered and eventually got an acceptable identifying shot. This is a problem I have often encountered when photographing small butterflies on the wing, whether using my Canon DSLR or very fast Panasonic Lumix.

Common Ringlet butterfly (Coenonympha tullia)    Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia) Shutter 200, Aperture f3/6, ISO 200

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) Fujifilm x100Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) Shutter 200, f3/2, ISO 400

Native Buzz

Native Buzz: Creative Container Gardening for Pollinators Opens at Garden in the Woods

Native Buzz: Container gardening at Garden in the Woods

Fifteen exhibits are placed along the Curtis Path at Garden in the Woods. Some whimsical, and all educational, each of the fifteen exhibits has a distinct concept and use of containers that hold the plants, which attract pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Native Buzz: Creative Container Gardening for Pollinators runs at Garden in the Woods, 180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, MA, through August 31, 2011, Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fees for adults (18-64) $10, seniors (65+) $7, youths (3-17) $5. Guided walking tours are offered Tuesday through Friday and holiday Mondays at 10 a.m. Weekend guided walking tours are given at 2 p.m. For more information see Native Buzz.

Hibiscus moscheutos, Crimson-eyed rose mallow, rose mallow, swamp mallowHibiscus moscheutos

Hibiscus moscheutos, with many common names–Crimson-eyed rose mallow, swamp mallow, and rose mallow–makes a long-blooming and gorgeous container plant when kept well-watered and well-fed. With luscious blossoms in pure white, rose red, and shades in-between, nearly all have an eye of deepest red. Popular during the Arts and Crafts period, Hibiscus mosheutos has had a wonderful resurgence with today’s gardeners. It occurs naturally in the east in swamps and marshes, from Massachusetts to Michigan and south to Florida  and Texas,

The mission of New England Wild Flower Society is to conserve and promote the region’s native plants to ensure healthy, biologically diverse landscapes. Founded in 1900, the Society is the nation’s oldest plant conservation organization and a recognized leader in native plant conservation, horticulture, and education. The Society’s headquarters, Garden in the Woods, is a renowned native plant botanic garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, that attracts visitors from all over the world. From this base, 35 staff and more than 1,000 volunteers work throughout New England to monitor and protect rare and endangered plants, collect and preserve seeds to ensure biological diversity, detect and control invasive species, conduct research, and offer a range of educational programs.

Lilac Cuture

Lilacs are found growing (where winters are cold enough to afford proper growth and ample blossoms) from the smallest rural village to the urban courtyard. They grow the very best in zones 3, 4, and 5, in the colder regions of zones 6 and 7, and in the warmer regions of zone 2. They will tolerate temperatures of -35 to -40f, though they may suffer some damage from windchill. If temperatures dip to such extreme cold in your region, site the lilac out of the path of chilling winter winds. Lilacs will tolerate frozen ground but not frozen pockets where water does not drain properly. Requiring excellent drainage, they grow best along rocky, limestone hillsides, suggesting just how important good drainage is. When planted in a mesic site, lilacs flower adequately, although, by late summer the foliage may wilt and turn moldy.

Syringa vulgaris President GrevySyringa vulgaris ‘President Grevy’

Lilacs perform best in sandy, gravelly loam mixed with organic matter such as compost and aged manure. Keep the surrounding soil free from weeds with an annual mulch of compost. In early spring sprinkle a cup of wood ashes around the base of the lilac and work it gently into the top layer of soil. Every three years or so apply a cup of ground limestone to the soil, again gently working it into the soil so as not to injure the roots.

Lilacs require full sun to nearly full sun to set flower buds. Where optimal sunlight isn’t always available, one may have some success with pushing the envelope. We are growing lilacs in several locations in half sun, and although they would be fuller in form with far more flowers, all are growing well.

The overall shape of lilacs is greatly improved with an annual pruning. Immediately after flowering is the ideal time to attend to this not unpleasant task. The job becomes less manageable as the shrub grows tall and leggy in a few short years.

After the lilac has become established and is a desirable size and shape, cut to the ground approximately one third of the oldest branches and thinnest suck- ers. This allows the bush to renew itself and for the energy of the bush to go into the remaining growth. Leaving the strongest trunks that form the armature of the shrub, prune diseased or pest-infested shoots or branches, and remove all declining stems, thin suckers, and small, twiggy branches. Some lilacs produce suckers rarely, if at all, and others sucker aggressively. Remove all spent flowers immediately after blooming, snipping very close to the tail end of the panicle so as not to remove the new growth that will provide you with next year’s flowers.

If you are growing lilacs as a background shrub or as a small tree, allow only two to three main stems as trunks, removing lower branches and cutting all other shoots to the ground. ’Beauty of Moscow’, ‘Madame Florent Stepman’ and the common lilac, both var. purpurea and alba, are all well suited for growing into a small multi-stemmed tree. Conversely if you do not want your lilac to become a tree, prune to a height of eight to nine feet, which keeps the blossoms at eye level.

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)Natives Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) and Catawba Rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense)

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)The small florets of  the pagoda dogwood are a bee-magnet.

With its versatile form and lovely heart-shaped leaves the lilac is an exceptional companion to a wide range of flowering trees and shrubs. The extended period of florescence a well-planned lilac hedge provides coincides with the long flowering period of our native pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) and Catawba rhododendrons. Just as the Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) is at its flowering peak, with masses of sublimely scented white blossoms, the earliest lilacs begin their fragrant parade. In our garden, the blossoms of Prunus, namely peach, pear and plum, overlap with the flowering of ‘Beauty of Moscow,’ ‘Maidens Blush,’ and ‘President Grevy.’ They are planted in close vicinity along the garden path. The newly emerging fragrant blossoms of Prunus interwoven with the pervasive perfume of lilacs give The Scent of All Spring!

Lilacs are one of the loveliest shrubs to grow as a tall hedge, and they integrate magnificently into the country hedge of mixed shrubs and trees. The ineffable beauty and fragrance of lilacs are enhanced by the many varieties of suitable companion plants. The short list of plants described here is particularly appealing during the lilac’s period of flowering, for their compatible scents, colors, and foliage or for creating a sequentially blooming combination of fragrances. ‘Korean Spice’ viburnum, nearing the end of its florescence while the lilacs are beginning theirs, blooms in pink infused white, snowball shaped flower heads, with an intensely sweet and spicy aroma. Variegated Solomon Seal, Viola ‘Etain,’ late-season jonquils and narcissus, and lily of-the-valley all bloom simultaneously with early lilacs. The most sublimely scented tree peony ‘Rockii,’ with white petals washed with pale rose, and magenta-purple splotches at its heart center, also flowers during lilac time. Later in the season, to coincide with later-flowering lilacs, come the Iris pallidaIris germanica, and native Iris versicolor, English bluebells, early species daylilies with their honey-citrus scent, ‘Bridal Wreath’ spirea, blue and white columbine ‘Origami,’ and white bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’). Although not at all fragrant, I find the warm, rich yellow color of native honeysuckle Lonicera ‘John Clayton’ particularly appealing with the white and cool blue-lavender-hued lilacs. Just as ‘Therese Bugnet,’ the earliest of roses to flower (with its Rugosa heritage) joins the scene, the lilacs are finished for the season. Lilacs, when pruned to a small tree shape, allow a variety of plants to grow happily at their feet. Herbaceous peonies, although their blooming period usually does not coincide with lilacs, make an ideal garden companion. In our yard, Paeonia lactiflora follow lilacs almost to the day in order of sequential blooming. The dense, full mounds of foliage of the herbaceous peonies visually fill the space left by the trunk of the lilacs, as do hosta. The foliage of hosta, planted on the shady side, makes a companionable partner. Hosta will appreciate the filtered sun and both plants benefit from an annual blanket of compost. Species daylilies, Montauk daisies, and chrysanthemums are ideal companions when planted on the sunnier side of lilacs.

Lonicera ‘John Clayton’

Spring never lasts long enough in New England, with some years leaping from bitter cold to balmy, summer-like temperatures. Despite freezing rain and late spring snow, lilacs bloom and bloom resplendently. For the extended period of time in which the spires of sweet florets are in bloom, our garden is redolent with their heavenly fragrance. The blossoms of Syringa vulgaris, and especially the fragrant sorts, are a nectar source for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The diminutive “violet afloat,” better known by its common name Spring Azure, is captivatingly beautiful floating about the pure white flowers of ‘Marie Legraye.’ Throughout the seasons our lilac hedge is alive with a chattering collection of songbirds. The height and the crooks of the branches are enticing to the innumerable songbirds, though it is the cadmium orange oriole alighting on the blue-hued spires of ‘President Grevy’ that causes the heart to skip a beat.

End Notes: Occasionally one must dig a bit deeper to find the value of a plant in relationship to pollinators for the landscape designed for people and wild creatures. First and foremost a garden should be an inviting habitat for the people who dwell there. What better way to create an invitation than with the beauty and fragrance of the lilac? Although not native to North America, lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are celebrated in this country as they are part of our cultural heritage. From cuttings tucked into belongings, the earliest settlers connected their previous home to their home of new beginnings. The ease in which lilacs are cultivated is famous and testifies to their success and popularity. At a lecture I attended not too long ago, an example of a white oak, which supports nearly one hundred species of Lepidoptera, was compared to the lilac, which is known to support just twenty-five. From a gardener’s perspective that is like comparing apples to oranges. Very few have space enough to grow an 80-foot-tall white oak, whereas a ten-foot-tall and easily cultivated lilac can find a place in nearly any garden. Besides, twenty-five species of Lepidoptera is not bad. Additionally, lilacs are a rich source of nectar for swallowtails. Our native eastern redbud—although stunning, and providing nectar for bees and  hummingbirds—is much more challenging to cultivate and hosts two species of Lepidoptera. Plant what you like, as long as it is not invasive in your particular region. As much as possible, utilize native plants in your garden design and combine with well-investigated and well-behaved ornamentals.

For an expanded version on the history of lilacs, Lilacs the Genus Syringa written by Fr. John L. Fiala is highly recommended. Filled with hundreds of color photographs and including chapters on the culture of lilacs, hybridizing techniques, and propagation, I have turned to this book repeatedly. Fortunately it has been reprinted and is once again available through Timber Press.

Thank you

Dear Gardening Friends,

Come join me this Tuesday, June 7th at Willowdale Estate, from 4:00 to 6:00, for a house and garden tour of this beautiful, and beautifully restored, historic Arts and Crafts manse. Members of the Willowdale staff will be giving guided tours of the house and I will be available to talk about the garden, including how the Arts and Crafts movement influenced our horticultural decisions. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments and praise for last week’s column “The most highly scented lilacs…” Next week I will send you information on lilac culture as this is the ideal time of year to trim and shape your lilacs for maximum blooms next year.

Single flowers of the Common White Lilac

Reader Irma wrote the following: I picked my lilacs at their height. In water, in the vase they lasted 2 days and drooped! Last year the same. I couldn’t believe it. Do you know why?

Hi Irma, Lilacs have woody stems and do not easily absorb water in the vase. Depending on whatever tool is handy, I do one of two things,. With a hammer, crush the stems, at least six inches along the length, and immediately place in a vase filled with tepid or warm water. Over the years I have also discovered that peeling the stems with a vegetable peeler is just as effective, and less messy. Peel away the woody outer layer, all around the stem, again at least six inches up the stalk (peel down to green). Still, even with treating the stems, the arrangement will be fleeting and only look beautiful for several days. The scent of the lilacs permeating throughout your home is worth the extra effort!

Beauty of Moscow lilacDouble-flowered ‘Beauty of Moscow’

Many wrote last week to say they enjoyed the excerpt from Amy Lowell’s gorgeous poem Lilacs. Here it is in entirety:


False blue,
Color of lilac,
Your great puffs of flowers
Are everywhere in this my New England.
Among your heart-shaped leaves
Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing
Their little weak soft songs;
In the crooks of your branches
The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs
Peer restlessly through the light and shadow
Of all Springs.
Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug into a hill.
You are everywhere.
You were everywhere.
You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,
And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.
You stood by the pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,
You persuaded the housewife that her dishpan was of silver.
And her husband an image of pure gold.
You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms
Through the wide doors of Custom Houses—
You, and sandal-wood, and tea,
Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks
When a ship was in from China.
You called to them: “Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,
May is a month for flitting.”
Until they writhed on their high stools
And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers.
Paradoxical New England clerks,
Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the “Song of Solomon” at night,
So many verses before bed-time,
Because it was the Bible.
The dead fed you
Amid the slant stones of graveyards.
Pale ghosts who planted you
Came in the nighttime
And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.
You are of the green sea,
And of the stone hills which reach a long distance.
You are of elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,
You are of great parks where every one walks and nobody is at home.
You cover the blind sides of greenhouses
And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass
To your friends, the grapes, inside. Continue reading

Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts

Sam Jaffe writes:

Turbulent Phosphila (Phosphila turbulenta)

Dear friends, family, and fellow naturalists,

I would like to formally announce this summer’s exciting new caterpillar exhibit:
 The Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts  an exhibit of photography, local natural history, and live caterpillars.
June 30th to September 12th, 2011
Click here to visit my new website for more information on the exhibit, and for a listing of the live caterpillar show dates.
Click here to visit my online galleries and get a feel for my work.

If you’re interested in helping out with the project, you can make a tax-deductible donation (any bit will help) and/or pass along this announcement! I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all who have contributed their time and resources to making this exhibit possible.  I am responsible for funding this project, and I could not have gotten this far without you!  

Looking forward to seeing you all there,

- Sam

The Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts
Too few people ever realize the natural wonder that Massachusetts’ biological systems have to offer, instead they assume that real biological diversity only exists in the tropics or other far away places. Yet our native flora and fauna are diverse and anything but mundane. Since childhood I have sought to identify and catalog the many species that inhabit our green spaces, from the smallest vacant lots to the largest wildlife refuges. This quest has provided me with a unique education in the natural history of New England.

In the fall of 2008 I began photographing caterpillars. These larval insects demonstrate a diversity of morphology and behavior better than perhaps any other group of animals in this region, and yet, they remain relatively unknown to even the most dedicated of naturalists. Through my photography, and through documenting the life histories of the species I find and raise, I hope to share some of what I have learned about the quality of our native biome.

In ages of exploration, drawing and painting were important tools used to document new discoveries. Old illustrations of insects regularly depict the subject and its food source alone on a page, isolated from background distractions. However, the desire to visually record an insect’s behavior and life history often infused these images with life and motion, and many artistic and powerful compositions resulted. These classical natural history pieces are the source of my inspiration. Isolated against a black background, the caterpillars are conspicuous and sculptural. Further, each species is shown upon its native hostplant and each composition aims to tell a story about its subject’s unique natural history.

Sam’s Note about the above photo of the Turbulent Phosphila: This group was collected September 4th from Medfield MA, but many such groups were found throughout August and the first part of September wherever Greenbrier was present. These caterpillars rest quietly on the underside of larger leaves during the day, but when they are disturbed they will first undulate their bodies in unison and then, given further prodding, leap off the leaf and hang in mid-air. A group of over 150 early instars diving off a leaf together is quite a sight!
Feel free to contact me with questions and ideas:Sam Jaffe