Saturday, April 23, 2016

every day is earth day

(I started writing this "Earth Day" post last night and fell asleep with my hands on the keyboard. Fortunately for me, Earth Day comes around with each sunrise.)

Epigaea repens
Trailing Arbutus

When I was little, I learned that this Spring-flowering gem is the official flower of Massachusetts, and that "picking it is Against The Law!" But only when I was about to post this picture did I realize I don't know exactly what that means. Is it Rare? Protected? Endangered?
So I fell down the google rabbit-hole, and wasted a lot of time on found a lot of contradictory "facts" and "history." The way you do.

Then I smartened up a little bit and visited the Massachusetts Legislature website to find the number of the existing law. Then on to the State Archives, to find the history of the law. The original law written in 1918 simply designated the mayflower "the flower or floral emblem of the commonwealth." This law was amended alarmingly soon; in 1925 the following language was added "as an emergency law, to prevent the extinction of the mayflower": 

Any person who pulls up or digs up the plant of the mayflower or any part thereof, or injures such plant or any part thereof except in so far as is reasonably necessary in procuring the flower therefrom, within the limits of any state highway or any other public way or place, or upon the land of another person without written authority from him, shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars; but if a person does any of the aforesaid acts while in disguise or secretly in the nighttime he shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.

I wonder what was behind the law being written in that way, don't you? Very belated Boston Tea Party backlash? 

There was a further amendment in 1953, which spelled out who has the authority/responsibility to enforce the law. Making me wonder if the law had ever been - or will ever be - enforced. Anyone looking for a Term Paper project in botany/history/law? There you go. Please share a copy; I'd love to read it.

Meanwhile, I'll be over here, enjoying this lovely little patch of Epigaea repens I happened upon yesterday. I don't see it often, so finding it blooming was a special treat.

p.s. Trailing Arbutus is very unlikely to survive being transplanted, as it relies on the presence of a specific soil fungus. Even if I was tempted to be a villainous arbutus-thief, I wouldn't risk it. Not even without a disguise.