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Monday, April 12, 1982

City Flora and Fauna

Ernest D. Wichels

Every one of our 50 states proudly presents a state flower. In California it’s a golden poppy; Oregon, the Oregon grape; Nevada, the sage brush; Arizona, the saguaro cactus; Utah, the sego lily; Colorado, the columbine; and Hawaii, the hibiscus.

Likewise, every state boasts of a state tree, a bird, a fish and even an insect. California’s insect is the dog-face butterfly.  But cities are different, it seems. Recently we sent a questionnaire to some 30 nearby communities asking if they had a designated city flower.

Only half a dozen have adopted one. Santa Rosa. naturally, has the rose: San Francisco, the dahlia: Sacramento, the camellia. Berkeley, the agapanthus (Lily of the Nile). Eureka claims the rhododendron, and Lake County has a county flower, the redbud or cercis.  Napa, St. Helena, Suisun-Fairfield, Crockett and our other neighbors have none.  During her incumbency as mayor of Vallejo, the late Florence Douglas successfully won her campaign to have the marigold designated as our city flower.

It is a very common plant, but does possess a number of advantages: It blooms almost the entire year, will grow anywhere, has warm, soft colors and comes in several varieties. One commentator added that it has a most redeeming garden feature: It discourages moles. and gophers in the yard.

It is interesting to note that states select only indigenous plants natives, in other words while cities up and down the coast, from Portland on the north to Pasadena on the south, have adopted imports.  Only Lake County and Eureka have gone native.  But there are other opportunities. Angwin could adopt the dogwood: Bakersfield, the lupine; Tomales, the wild rose; several Mother Lode towns. could select the wild lilac (or deer bush); and Point Arena, the wild iris.

One of the 30 mayors who replied was from Oak-land; like most of the others, it does not have a city flower. But he added that Oakland does have a city bird, the snowy egret.

After Fairfield ‘s sad experience with thousands of swarming birds in February, we are certain that our neighbors will not adopt the starling as a city bird.  A century ago, both Solano and Napa counties had a population of tens of thousands of indigenous birds the wild pigeon. Even 75 years ago, there were many of them. So far as we know, they have completely disappeared.

A few “cousins” call Napa and Solano their homes like the band-tailed pigeon, the mourning dove, and others.  Most of our birds are ‘transients, south for the Winter. Some may be found here in all seasons the California blue jay, the snipe, several owl species, valley quail, pheasant, some sparrows, and perhaps the Anna hummingbird.

Researching past newspapers in out two counties brings to light some unbelievable “expert” opinions of the past.  On May It 1904, the Vallejo Evening Chronicle published an article on retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Melville. He had just returned from England aboard the White Star Liner Cedric. As a representative of the Navy Department, he officially investigated the efficiency of the turbine engine as a propelling power for warships.

It was the admiral’s opinion that the turbine had not reached a stage of availability and, in his words, “it is 20 years ahead of its time.  In those clays, and for years later warships and ocean liners used the steam reciprocating (“up-and-down” ) engines. As late as 1918 when the Mare Island Naval Shipyard was awarded’ two of the Navy’s first turbine-driven destroyers, the Fairfax and the ‘Taylor, critical editorials appeared in several Eastern newspapers.

In essence, these wiseacres said, putting such sophisticated machinery in the hands of a typical Navy bluejacket was sheer folly.  Although the diesel engine and atomic power for propulsion have been widely accepted the era of the steam turbine ‘has been one of the brightest spots in energy history.  Which reminds us Human beings generally resent changes. For example, in the mid-1950s, 1957 we believe, there were two mail deliveries by carriers from Monday through Friday. That was only 25 years ago, and many of our readers should remember those days.

When the decision to cut back to once-daily service was announced, there was a national outcry of major proportions and a wave of protests to our congressional representatives, the postmaster general, the president, etc.  But frankly, who today would ask that these twice-a-day deliveries be resumed? What would they accomplish, except to expedite the delivery of junk mail and appeals for money, and increase the cost of postal service?

Worse yet, before World War II there were two deliveries on Saturdays, but shortage of manpower during war years changed that. Perhaps we might even ask ourselves today. Are Saturday deliveries really necessary?

Postal conditions have changed. Up until 100 years ago, the Vallejo Evening Chronicle every Saturday’ carried a list of undelivered first-class nail in the post office.  Today’s Times-Herald doesn’t have the space to print perhaps even 1 percent of that amount.