I actually signed up to be in the plants group, so think of me what you will. (Read: A friend and I had actually had a ten minute conversation before signing up online about how we’d actually die if we had to touch a bug.)
Being in the first BioBlitz session was interesting – as in our leaders quickly decided that the next sessions would meet at their zones beforehand, instead of everyone going to the sign-in area and then walking the twenty minutes to where we actually had to be. It wasn’t too bad, because along the way one of our guides – famous for his detailed map of Central Park’s 20,000 trees – spotted what he claimed to be a laurel oak on the side of the road. Not just any laurel oak, mind you, but the first laurel oak in Central Park… according to our guide. A group of plant enthusiasts quickly formed around the tree as we took to task identifying said tree, and we eventually reached an impasse when someone else declared the mysterious laurel oak to be a black birch. Being generally clueless about trees, all my group and I could do was look at one another blankly as the experts fought and discussed. I think we actually moved on from the “Unknown Tree” before we learned just what it was, much to our dismay.
Once we arrived at our zones, we were told that our three groups would be split into two and taken into either Zone 3 or Zone 4. Zone 3 was the Shakespeare Garden, and Zone 4 was, well, I don’t exactly remember because I was already shifting over to the left side of the group hoping to be sent to the garden. Successfully doing so, we took the short walk to an elevated garden of cultivated plants, which for the most part, were chosen to be grown there because they were mentioned in one of Shakespeare’s plays. Of course, we quickly learned that not all the plants in the garden fit this criteria due to seasonal or geographical limitations, but we appreciated the effort anyways.
I’m not sure how we would have accomplished anything if we didn’t have guides with us, because we spent quite some time trying to find a rose, only to find out that we were looking right at the plant – though it wasn’t in bloom. The afternoon consisted of us looking at interesting looking plants, and our guides revealing their names so we could look up their descriptions in a myriad of flora-related books we were given. I can’t realistically go back and name any of the flowers we examined, but there were a number that managed to catch my eye that I’d certainly remember by sight.
Since we spent most of our time in a cultivated garden where pretty much every plant species grown is known already, I did feel as if we didn’t do that good a job with cataloging “new or undiscovered” plants in Central Park. I’m sure the other group made good use of their plant press in taking samples of unidentified plants, but I’m fairly sure they saw more weeds than we did.
BioBlitz was… an experience. For the group I was in, it felt more like a tour of the garden than anything, but again, that was probably just our group. I did honestly appreciate the walk through the Shakespeare Garden though, and the plaques with quotes from The Bard’s works in front of various plants made the afternoon uniquely enjoyable.