Monday, April 5, 2010


Spring is everywhere. I have seen it as we traveled on two missions of mercy, moving through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. On Good Friday, I sat in a rocker on the long porch of Inez Sullivan’s home in Frostproof, Florida and got acquainted with a flower I had never seen blooming – the Bird of Paradise flower, which is sometimes called the Crane flower. It’s a plant native to South Africa but has been cultivated in this country and loves warm spring temps of 65-70 degrees during the day but tolerates temps no lower than 50 degrees at night. It thrives in Florida and California where sunny days are abundant. The Bird of Paradise also grows close to the ocean in gardens planted beside seaside homes where its leaves are able to withstand salt breezes.

When I first glimpsed the plant, I thought of the old roadrunner cartoons, as it resembles a bird with its long stem, petals of bright orange and a blue arrow-shaped tongue. Actually, the flower looks like a brilliantly-colored bird that has landed on a plant with bluish colored-green leaves. This Bird of Paradise had been planted by my friend Vickie’s mother who has been too ill to see it in bloom, but as we were leaving, her caretaker promised to take her out on the porch to see the product of her very green thumb.

On the way back to Sewanee, Tennessee, we stopped in Macon, Georgia where a Cherry Blossom Festival had just taken place. The medians on highways around Macon are filled with the trees which originated on the lawn of William A. Fickling who first glimpsed this mystery tree on his lawn in Macon in 1852. He discovered that it was the Yoshino (flowering) cherry tree, which is native to Japan, but never found out how it arrived on a lawn in the heart of redneck country! Fickling learned to propagate the trees and distributed them throughout Macon. Today, the Yoshino cherry trees in Macon Georgia number 200,000. Every year the Cherry Blossom Festival carries the theme of love, beauty, and international friendship and is complete with bands, costumed performers, hot air balloons and world class food featured at the International Food Fair. We had just missed the festivities but were happy to get a glimpse of the trees in full bloom.

In Monroe County of Georgia, we passed white blooming pear trees and wisteria vines entwined among tree tops, redbuds in the woods, and enjoyed the full resurrection of Easter flowers. However, the sights that stirred us most were the gates of Sewanee and the Spring in the woods that had happened in our absence. The woods are now filled with yellow and white daffodils, forsythia, and redbuds, and we await the awakening of dogwood. We have our own birds of paradise!
Note: Photographs of the Bird of Paradise by Victoria Sullivan

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