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Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise Flower at Descanso Gardens, February 2020

Indigenous to South Africa, the bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) has become a welcome interloper among the flora of Southern California. I remember when I first saw one, my first response was, “How exotic!” Now I almost tend to take them for granted, they are so widespread.

It is amazing to me that mankind has succeeded in shuffling the flora around all around the earth. I was amazed to see eucalyptus trees in the Peruvian highlands. Even more amazing to me were the jacarandas in Buenos Aires, flowering as they did in November during the Southern Spring. (But then, jacarandas are native to South America.)

The same thought hit Henry David Thoreau writing in The Maine Woods. On his three trips to Maine, Thoreau is disturbed by what man had dome to the trees of Massachusetts. In the Maine of the early 19th century, that shuffling of the trees had not yet occurred. What had occurred, on the other hand, was massive logging. It was rare for Thoreau and his co-travelers not to come across old logging camps far into the interior of the state.

Joe Polis, a Penobscot Indian Who Traveled with Thoreau

One result of man’s interference is the potential loss of important species. On his third trip to Maine, Thoreau traveled with an Indian, Joe Polis, who told him that every plant was medicinal to the Penobscot Indians, and went on to demonstrate among several examples which Thoreau showed him.

After the White Man pretty much replaced the original population, we lost a great deal that they had learned over thousands of years.

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