Marvelous Monkeys

  I was a primatologist for many years, which is a fancy way of saying I never got over my childhood infatuation with monkeys. Whenever I get back to the tropics, it’s always a thrill to see them. I’m tempted to whip out a notebook and start recording data, but instead these days I tend […]



A tale of two seasons

Winter has waged war in my yard this year, alternating between bitter cold and unseasonable warmth. Advancing and retreating, often in the same week, bitter cold days of single digits give way to days in the fifties and even sixties. Ground that was frozen and buckled with ice crystals for days suddenly turns to mud. […]

Night Lights

The North Carolina Arboretum continues the tradition started in 2014 of winter lights. These turn the garden into a winter wonderland. Every year new displays are added, and there are now half a million lights. These are efficient LED lights, using 80% less energy than ordinary lights. So even though they are spread over three […]




I like the idea of a day dedicated to giving thanks. The only thing better would be to focus on things we appreciate every day. But at least there is one day each year devoted to being grateful. Most of us are thankful for friends and family, for work and play, and for the many […]

Float Boat

  On a trip last week I managed to see the New York Botanical Garden both by day and at night. This garden is special to me since I took a course on tropical ecology there between college and graduate school, taught by Ghillean Prance who became the director of Kew Gardens. I try when […]



Autumn Goldenrod

Goldenrod has finished blooming in my yard for over a week, so I was surprised to find a few plants blooming as I hiked up the slopes of Roan Mountain, at nearly 6000 feet. Though I went in search of fall colors, I was happy to find these unexpected fall flowers. The warm autumn has […]

Flying Dragon

Dragonflies are creatures of superlatives. They have the ability to fly in any direction, with their four wings rotating and moving independently. The largest known insect was a fossil dragonfly with a 30-inch wingspan. It would be amazing to see them, though if they got angry they could be intimidating. They are fierce predators, both […]



Spinning Trees

As autumn returns, I am excited to see fall cascading down from the mountaintops to the valleys. Cool nights bring color to the peaks, a month or more before reaching my home below. Though lacking the saturation of northeast forests, the greater tree diversity gives a nuanced and rich tapestry of colors. As if on […]

Perpetual Flowers

  A few days ago I visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Water lily flowers are near their peak of delicate blooms, but the leaves are turning yellow and purple, mirroring the start of fall colors dotting trees surrounding the pond. Water lilies are thriving in the heat of this summer, and I imagine they […]



Searching for Salamanders

Friends of Roan Mountain is a local organization focused on raising awareness of the mountain, organizing four rallies a year. This past weekend was the fall naturalists’ rally, and over a dozen of us went on a salamander hike. We explored a forest that had a small stream running through it, along with adjacent dry […]