When we think of migrating fish swimming upstream to spawn, we picture salmon heroically leaping up waterfalls — the stuff of inspirational posters. But the American shad is different. “Shad don’t jump,” Joe Perillo, a Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) biologist, plainly states. American shad stay in the water, and for millennia they swam gracefully up the Schuylkill River as far as Pottsville.
Entries in environment (29)
Exploring the Seedy Side of Philadelphia: Heirloom seed-savers are preserving our area’s rich horticultural heritage
As anyone with the gardening bug knows, the bleakness of midwinter in Philadelphia has a way of making you dream of warmer times, often hatching ambitious plans for your raised beds. I had one of those moments this winter while looking through the glossy pages of a seed catalog. Among the hundreds of pages of colorful fruits, flowers and vegetables, a particular plant caught my attention: the Fish Pepper.
With distinct white-striped leaves and young green fruit, the pepper bush was interesting in on a purely visual level. But what really got my attention was the pepper’s history as an African-American heirloom plant popular in Philadelphia and Baltimore, dating to before the 1870s. Heirlooms are plants whose seeds have been saved over generations, replanted year after year, consistently reproducing similar traits. Many vegetables offered at nurseries and big-box stores are hybrids that can produce sterile seeds or offspring with erratic traits.
Although Philadelphia is already a national leader in stormwater management thanks to the innovative Green City, Clean Waters program, the City is always looking for new creative and sustainable ways to improve on their practices and policies. The latest example is the Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!, a nationally juried competition hosted by the Community Design Collaborative, Philadelphia Water Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The competition launched in early October and attracted 28 teams with more than 300 professionals from Philadelphia and across the country. A couple weeks ago, the winners were announced, which included Philadelphia companies Roofmeadow, OLIN and Urban Engineers. Tonight, the winners will be presenting their projects at the Academy of Natural Sciences during a conversation on the future of Philadelphia waterways. Tickets are already sold out, but the above video produced by GreenTreks Network (and premiering tonight!) gives a great overview of the competition process and highlights the three winners.
For more on Soak It Up! look for a special insert in our August issue done in partnership with the Community Design Collaborative. The insert will give an inside look into the competition process and some of the creative solutions proposed by the teams.
In October, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled the first phase of their “greenest street in America” project. Located on a 1.5-mile stretch of Cermak Road in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, the street is made with air pollution-eating materials and features solar panels, native plants and stormwater-sucking pavement, among other impressive technology. The street’s success has since launched the city into the national limelight for innovative planning. Of course we’re happy for Chicago, but it leaves us wanting to know — who in Philadelphia will steal this idea?
So what makes Cermak Road the greenest street in America?
So much of life is out of view. Looking down at a forest floor we see tree bases, some bushes, leaf litter. We don’t easily see the enormous fungi networks that make up the healthy forest soil. We miss the hordes of tiny bugs eating leaf litter, the fungi and each other. And we can completely forget the cryptic little predators that are the lions, the tigers, the eagles of this world.
Take, for example, salamanders. Even when we catch a glimpse of the lowly red-backed salamander, it’s too tiny to take seriously. Collectively salamanders help keep their vast food webs in balance, but they’re too easy to write off as little critters who squirm out of view.
"The Cryptic Ones," an exhibition at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, challenges us to take another look. These scanned salamander portraits by Brandon Ballengée, an artist and professor at New York’s School of Visual Arts, show salamanders at a scale we can appreciate. There are candy-orange northern red salamanders, red-spotted newts and black slimy salamanders flecked with shimmering silver dots like stars against the night sky.