Los Angeles Native Wildflower Project

INTRODUCTION

We need your help to identify and proclaim a Los Angeles City Native Wildflower!
From your ideas, we can co-create a new symbol that will support positive environmental impacts while recognizing the deep cultural roots of our city.


Poppy field circa 1900 in present day Altadena, CA. Source: Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center. Object ID LS.12459.

Poppy field circa 1900 in present day Altadena, CA. Source: Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center. Object ID LS.12459.

SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF A CITY Native WILDFLOWER

The recent history of Los Angeles’ relationship with the land is a tapestry of native and foreign cultures colliding. 

Prior to European colonization, there was a thriving aboriginal community of the Tongva people. A kincentric relationship existed with natural flora - of the 6,300 flower plants, gymnosperms, ferns and fern allies native to California, hundreds to thousands occurred in each tribal territory, which were incorporated in the tribe’s ethnobotany.[1] The people of what is now Los Angeles saw their relationship with nature as one of mutuality rather than dominance. 

Bird of Paradise,  Strelitzia reginae

Bird of Paradise, Strelitzia reginae

The dynamics of Los Angeles significantly changed upon European arrival as did the city’s relationship with the land and its native wildlife. After World War II, Los Angeles became an epicenter of commerce and a destination for exoticism and west-coast bourgeoisie life-styles. On September 9, 1952, Mayor Bowron proclaimed the Bird of Paradise (a tropical evergreen hailing from South Africa) as the official city flower of Los Angeles. In an effort to emphasize the city’s new reputation, the Chamber of Commerce Beautification Committee (the “Committee”) highlighted the following as reasons, among others, for endorsing the Bird of Paradise: 

1.   Regal
2.  Dignified
3.  Exotic 
4.  Unusual 
5.  Rare

Not surprisingly, nowhere in the flower’s qualification did the Committee take note of the flower’s historical relevance to the pre-existing cultures indigenous to Los Angeles or the environmental impact of the flower on our native landscape. 


Yarrow

Today the city of Los Angeles is home to over 4 million people from over 140 countries speaking over 220 languages. [3] Just as species-rich communities of plants are better able to engage in “biotic resistance” or limit the invasion of harmful species and diseases, our diverse Los Angeles community is all the stronger with the networks of different cultures and emergence of heterodox ideas. We are a city of mostly immigrants from all over the world, however, we are all rooted by a common history and common land. As our relationship with the land continues to evolve, the need for education surrounding local plant and wildlife is readily apparent. The establishment of a Los Angeles Native Wildflower is emblematic of how our modern society can be informed by a interconnected past that pre-dated many of our arrivals to this City of Angels. 


ENVIROnMENTAL IMPLICATIONS OF A CITY NATIVE WILDFLOWER 

Native plants are superlative land management tools. In a time when our city is looking for solutions to alienating problems like drought, pesticide use and natural resource degradation[4], native plants offer simple but accessible solutions. 

The following are some of the most commonly cited ways in which native plants are environmental champions:

1. Creation of biodiversity hotspots and habitat regeneration
2. Complimenting edible gardens and farms 
3. Supporting native wildlife with food and shelter
4. Indicative of overall environmental health
5. Lower maintenance and water requirements 
6. Limited need for pesticide use [5]

The city has previously recognized the importance of native plants with the passing of the Los Angeles city native plant, the Toyon or Heteromeles arbutifolia, in 2012.  More recently, the city has worked closely with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“LADWP”) to incentivize turf removal and use of California Friendly® plants (including endemic native California plants) through the Unreasonable Use of Water prohibition.[6]

Image of the Toyon tree’s berries. The Toyon tree was named the official Los Angeles city native plant in 2012. These beautiful shrubs produce edible berries, attract butterflies, birds, and other wildlife, and play an important role in maintaining natural habitats. When one of these shrubs is removed, the impacts go far beyond aesthetics, often affecting entire ecosystems. Source: Wikipedia and Los Angeles Department of City Planning Staff Report CPC-2016-4520-CA.

Image of the Toyon tree’s berries. The Toyon tree was named the official Los Angeles city native plant in 2012. These beautiful shrubs produce edible berries, attract butterflies, birds, and other wildlife, and play an important role in maintaining natural habitats. When one of these shrubs is removed, the impacts go far beyond aesthetics, often affecting entire ecosystems. Source: Wikipedia and Los Angeles Department of City Planning Staff Report CPC-2016-4520-CA.

The creation of a city native wildflower is a natural evolution in the city’s stewardship of the land. 


ballona_creek_bike_trail_4.jpg

INCREASED FUNDING TOWARDS NATIVE PLANT PROJECTS

This proposal and the induction of a Los Angeles native wildflower is a microcosm in much larger movement. As of June 2018, there are 21 bills in the California Assembly that mention the importance of native plants. More opportunities to receive funding for native plant “greenways” are being introduced as the increased awareness of their significance is realized.  The creation of a city native wildflower compliments the state funding opportunities as a way to both expand native habitat and receive subsidization for native friendly greenscaping. 


CONCLUSION

For too long, modern culture has seen its relationship with nature in extremes: (1) destroy or (2) conserve at all costs. We have lost sight of the fact that humans are just as much a part of the ecosystems as the birds, bees and wildflowers. We have a responsibility to practice proper land management and provide educational opportunities to teach this generation and the next generation of Angelinos. Just as flowers manifest hope in bringing seeds for the flowers of tomorrow, we submit that the city should endeavor to create a Los Angeles City native wildflower as a way to galvanize social and environmental progress for all of Los Angeles.  


 

Sources

[1] M. Kat Anderson, Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources, pg. 34, University of California Press (2005). 

[2] Los Angeles City Archives, Mayoral Proclamation September 9, 1952.

[3] Population USA, Los Angeles Population 2018, https://www.usapopulation.org/los-angeles-population/(last visited July 2, 2018). 

[4] Page 91 of the Sustainability pLAn outlines the city’s goals as it pertains to soil health, no-net-loss biodiversity, reduction of pesticides and updated watershed protection policies. See City of Los Angeles, Sustainability pLAn, http://plan.lamayor.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/the-plan.pdf(last visited July 2, 2018). 

[5] Theodore Payne Foundation, The Case for Native Plants, http://theodorepayne.org/(last visited July 2, 2018). 

[6] Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, LADWP to Begin Enforcement of Unreasonable Water Use Ordinance On City’s Top Water Users, http://www.ladwpnews.com/ladwp-to-begin-enforcement-of-unreasonable-water-use-ordinance-on-citys-top-water-users/(last visited July 2, 2018).