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Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise at Los Angeles Arboretum

Strelitzia reginae at Los Angeles Arboretum

Even before I came to Los Angeles for the first time in 1966, I could identify the Bird of Paradise, or Strelitzia reginae. For me, it always represented the exoticism of the tropics. It went with all those palm trees and other flora that one never found in Cleveland or New Hampshire. There is a funny thing about those exotic plants, including the Bird of Paradise. Whereas Eastern plants are more tactile, the palms and flowers in Southern California are not friendly to the touch.

That is especially true of palm trees. When I found out that rats like to live in palm trees, I lost all interest in touching them. As for the Bird of Paradise, which is actually an import from South Africa, where it is called the Crane Flower, it has no inviting scent, nor is it soft and approachable. It’s like many succulents, many of which are interesting looking, but do not reward close scrutiny.

Sometimes I wonder if the people in Los Angeles resemble the local plant life in that regard. We’re all from somewhere else, like the Bird of Paradise, but we’re hard tom get to now. There is a certain feeling of noli me tangere. (Do not touch!)

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