EcoQuests, part of the NYC EcoFlora Project, challenge New Yorkers to become citizen scientists and observe, study and help conserve the native plants and animals of the City, using iNaturalist, an easy-to-use mobile App. Since the first EcoQuest Challenge in August 2017, more than 800 observers have recorded approximately 45,000 observations of nearly 2000 species.
Bear Down on Bittersweet - December 2018
Asian Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is an aggressive invasive woody vine that kills trees by outcompeting for water, strangling trunks, smothering the canopy, and causing damage during wind and ice storms. Invaded woodlands are destroyed limb by limb, tree by tree until there are none standing. Asian Bittersweet seeds are dispersed by birds, yard waste, and
discarded holiday wreaths.
Help NYBG document as much Asian Bittersweet as possible by December 31.
Take photographs of Asian Bittersweet anywhere in New York City and post your findings iNaturalist so they can be added to the NYC EcoFlora Project. For large masses where it is difficult to isolate a single plant, take one photograph every 5–10 feet to cover the entire population. Your observations will show the extent of coverage.
Additional resource: Download the Guide to Asian Bittersweet.
View Project Stats on iNaturalist: Asian Bittersweet EcoQuest Stats.
Photo credit: Ira Gershenhorn.
Pursue Porcelain-berry - November 2018
Porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis glandulosa) was introduced to North America from Asia in 1887 as a ground cover and horticultural curiosity. In recent years it has become one of the most destructive invasive plants in the eastern United States. Like Kudzu, another non-native invasive vine, it smothers trees and within a few years can transform a forest into an unhealthy monoculture.
Under a thick blanket of Porcelain-berry vines, the soil dries out and becomes lifeless.
Help NYBG document as much Porcelain-berry as possible by November 30.
Take photographs of Porcelain-berry anywhere in New York City and post your findings on the NYC EcoFlora Project at iNaturalist. For large masses where it is difficult to isolate a single plant, take one photograph every 5–10 feet to cover the entire population. Your observations will show the extent of coverage.
Additional resource: Download the Guide to Porcelain-berry.
View Project Stats on iNaturalist: Porcelain-berry EcoQuest Stats.
Watch for White Snakeroot - October 2018
From abandoned lots to pristine woodlands, drifts of snow-white flowers set against deep-green foliage make White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) recognizable everywhere it grows. This hardy, late-blooming native wildflower hosts the White Snakeroot Leafminer (Liriomyza eupatoriella). Larvae of the fly create distinctive serpentine leaf tracings but do not diminish the plant’s vigor or reproductive capacity—an ecological relationship called commensalism.
Help NYBG document as many White Snakeroot and White Snakeroot Leafminers as possible by October 31.
Take photographs of White Snakeroot and White Snakeroot Leafminer tracings anywhere in New York City, and post your findings on the NYC EcoFlora Project at iNaturalist.
Additional resource: Download the Guide to White Snakeroot.
View Project Stats on iNaturalist: White Snakeroot EcoQuest Stats.
Find Fraxinus - September 2018
Ash trees (Fraxinus) across North America are threatened with extinction by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a small, metallic-green beetle. NYBG and NYC Parks are teaming up to collect and store Ash fruit for research on resistance to EAB and for potential future restoration. Observations of Ash fruit (pictured) from naturally growing trees will help researchers identify trees for conservation.
Monitor Milkweeds - August 2018
In 1800 there were 11 Milkweed species (Asclepias) in New York City; four have not been documented in more than 50 years and are thought to be extinct; and only three are commonly found. North America’s iconic Monarchs (pictured) and other Butterflies require Milkweed plants for survival. How many Milkweed species can you find?
Tracking Tree of Heaven - July 2018
Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is the quintessential urban tree. Native to China, it has spread across the world, thrives under adversity, and grows very rapidly. It is also the preferred host for Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive insect that threatens crops and forests, first found near Philadelphia in 2014 but not yet documented in New York State.
Help NYBG document the abundance and distribution of as many Tree of Heaven as possible by July 31 and help monitor for the presence of Spotted Lanternfly.
Additional resource: Download New York City EcoFlora: Tree of Heaven.
Look for Laurel - June 2018
The Laurel family (Lauraceae) are trees and shrubs best known for their aromatic products bay leaves and cinnamon. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) are indigenous to eastern North America from Maine to Texas and are the preferred host for larvae of the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (pictured).
Help NYBG document the abundance and distribution of as many wild Spicebush, Sassafras and Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies as possible by June 30.
Take photos of Spicebush, Sassafras and Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies.
Download the Laurel information guide
May is for Mayapple - May 2018
Some might remember when Mayapple plants (Podophyllum peltatum) were a rare treat in New York City. Their unusual leaves and preference for secluded, shady woods made them seem all the more exotic. This hardy native species is now being used more frequently in restoration plantings, and it is not uncommon to seem them in some of our busiest parks. How many can you find?
Benefits to wildlife include pollen for native Bumblebees and ripe fruit for Opossum, Raccoon, Skunk, Fox, and Turtle.
Take photos of Mayapple plants and any insect visitors.
Download the Mayapple information guide
Photo credit: Photo 11004, (c) Stephen Seiberling, some rights reserved (CC BY-NY-ND).
City Nature Challenge - April 2018
The City Nature Challenge is a global competition to find out which city can observe the most nature during a 4-day weekend, April 27th to April 30th. Last year, New York City finished in ninth place out of 16 US cities and this year we are hoping to be number one!? We need your help.? Any observation of a plant, animal, fungus or lichen made anywhere in NYC before May 1st is welcome.?
Pets, house plants and pictures of people don’t count.? All observations contribute to research, conservation and the enjoyment of nature.
Document as many plants, animals, and fungi as possible starting on the morning of April 27th and continuing to midnight April 30th.
City Nature Challenge Practice Session:
*Thursday, April 19: Mini Nature Challenge, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn
Look for Lamium - March 2018
Deadnettle is the common name for the mint genus Lamium, which comprises about 25 species native to Eurasia. Some species resemble nettles, but lack the stinging hairs of Urtica; hence they are “dead.”
Three Lamium species have naturalized and occur wild in North America, usually in fertile, moist soil around homes, farms and gardens. They often form extensive stands due to their prolific seed production, but do not typically invade natural areas. Pollinators are not well documented, especially in North America, so your observations will enhance our understanding of these plants and their role in the ecosystem.
Help NYBG document the abundance and distribution of as many wild Lamium species and their pollinators as possible by March 31.
Download the Lamium information guide
Hunt for Hedera - February 2018
English Ivy (Hedera helix) is a European vine often planted as a ground cover and a wall climber. Until recently the species was confined primarily to homes and gardens, but in the past several years, it has begun to invade natural areas.
Dense mats crowd out native vegetation and provide shelter for pests such as Norway Rats. The vine’s added weight in the tree canopy causes breakage, especially in wind and ice storms.
Help NYBG document as many wild English Ivy plants in New York City as possible by February 28 so they can be managed by the appropriate authorities.
Download the Hedera helix information guide
Sweetgum Sightings - January 2018
The American Sweetgum is a large tree native to eastern North America and the mountains of Mexico and Central America. The trees are a critical resource for numerous organisms, from fungi to large mammals.
American Sweetgums are a larval food source for Luna Moths and 35 other caterpillars; Beavers, Mice, and Rabbits eat the bark; Deer browse the foliage; and Squirrels, Chipmunks and at least 25 species of birds eat the seeds. Cavities inside the fruit harbor insects that are consumed by hungry birds in winter.
Help NYBG document American Sweetgum trees and their ecological associates in New York City to advance our understanding of biodiversity and ecology in our communities.
Take photos of American Sweetgum trees and their animal associates. Post your observations on the NYC EcoFlora Project at iNaturalist.
Download the guide Sweetgum in New York City
January 2018 EcoQuest Results:
Total observations for New York City: 394.
Observations by borough: Manhattan, 154; Bronx, 135; Staten Island, 89; Brooklyn, 11; Queens, 3.
Top five observers: danielatha, 113; elizajsyh, 91; mjstrauss21, 37; dskacc, 28; margela, 17.
Total number of plants, animals and fungi: 7
Shining Sumac: 2
Mourning Dove: 1
Eastern Gray Squirrel: 1
Fungi and Lichens: 1
Thank you for your participation!
Return to main EcoQuest page.