What does it mean to be native to a place? I was born in Reno, Nevada (a fact that is fun to share and watch people try to place me in the box they have created for the “biggest little city in the world”). But I grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, raised on rain and tall fir trees. And I’ve now lived in southern California longer than anywhere else. Does that make me a native Angeleno?
In L.A., it’s rare to meet someone born and bred who stayed around. They end up even more fascinating than they might normally be, similar to meeting an L.A. resident who has never dabbled in the “industry”: You learned to drive on the 405? Your school lockers were outside? You had surfing as a P.E. class? You NEVER spent a day as a film or TV extra?
“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”
― Frank Lloyd Wright
Even our signature flora isn’t native. Just one of the iconic palms waving in the Los Angeles sunset is: the California fan palm. All the rest are imports, just like most of us. The gorgeous jacaranda tree, that welcomes summer with its lavender glory in May and June, and drops its beautiful violet blossoms to wreak havoc on your car’s paint job or your home’s new carpets? It’s native to Argentina.
What to plant if you want something truly native? Check out PlantNative.org, a Portland, Oregon-based resource of nurseries, books, and lists that highlight the native plants in your neck of the woods. Search for your state here.
And if, like a true transplant, you want to plant a palm or jacaranda to honor your move to Los Angeles, check out Los Angeles’s Agriculture blog here on how to plant a jacaranda, and see if you qualify for a FREE TREE via Million Trees L.A. – a city movement to increase our tree canopy cover. Read more on the history of L.A. and the iconic palm trees at kcet.org.
How, and how long, does it take for a new place to be home? When you arrive at the airport or find your car under the arrow on the freeway that guides your car in the right direction and internally, you feel a sense of relaxation. That you’ll arrive home, where you know the best routes for traffic and buses, where you say hello to the familiar person at the grocery check out line or your local nursery, where, no matter how long you’ve lived there, you’re still surprised by the unknown and unexpected turns of your town. But it’s YOUR town.
(Photo: Early 20th-century postcard depicting Santa Monica’s Palisades Park. The text on the reverse read, ‘Atop a lofty bluff is Palisades Park, one of the most beautiful on the Pacific Coast, where amid tropical palms and gay flowers, one may rest and view the grandeur of the blue Pacific.’ Courtesy of the Werner Von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.)