The cast of characters in the natural world of New York City includes islands, rivers, swamps and forests as well as Leslie Day, Ph.D. A naturalist whose passion is the nature of the City, Dr. Day earned a doctorate in science education from Columbia University and worked for decades as a science teacher in the City.
A resident of the 79th Street Boat Basin for almost 40 years and now retired from teaching, Dr. Day continues to educate New Yorkers about the natural world that is the City. She is now devoted to writing books and leading nature walks throughout the City’s five boroughs.
Dr. Day’s recent tour of Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan included a cast of New York City female protagonists that are waiting for spring to return before revealing their star creations to the City.
These included the yucca plant that Dr. Day reveals is a perennial shrub with a very specialized, pollination system. Pollinated uniquely by yucca moths, the insect purposefully transfers the pollen from the (male) stamens of one plant to the (female) stigma of another by rolling the pollen into a ball and carrying it under her chin to make her deposit, a sort of New York-style schlep, creating a strange and wonderful courtship and consummation, insect-style.
At the same time, the moth lays an egg in the flower. The moth larva feeds on some of the developing seeds. But it leaves enough seed to perpetuate the yucca. Nice work, ladies. We’ll see you in the spring.
Dr. Day also pointed out a walnut-sized egg mass belonging to a praying mantis. Clinging to a branch, and visible due to the lack of foliage during the winter, the insects deposit eggs in insulated sacs. Awaiting the return of spring, the eggs spend the winter safely inside.
Masters of camouflage, the insects are hard to spot during warmer months. Seeing the egg sac was a chance to get up close and personal with the ladies, who have a fearsome reputation in the world of animal sex – that of biting off the heads of their mates.
Dr. Day began the tour with a walk through the renowned Heather Garden. Here, various species of heather made a delightful display, showing their colors through the white snow on the ground.
This little lady, with a necklace of heather and a hydrangea hat, charmed us all as Dr. Day described the the origins of the gardens, the various species under cultivation and the pleasures that await the coming of warmer weather. It seemed evident to us all that she understood the romance of the Heather Garden and the romantic actions of flora and fauna around her.
With Valentines’ Day just around the corner, we wanted to make sure everything was all lined up. So, we’re sharing this final video from Hudson Heights resident and sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, to make absolutely sure.