Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Norfolk Pine

I visited the Assiniboine Park Conservatory on Good Friday to say my goodbyes to Winnipeg’s version of a jungle. It’s a place my mom and I liked to frequent—a chance to breathe tropical air during a dry prairie winter. Healthy, mature trees will need to be chopped down to make way for the future Diversity Gardens. 

Along with twisted old figs and rubber trees, there’s a pair of tall hundred-year-old Norfolk Pines that won’t survive a transplant. Speaking of transplants, the pines transplanted me to a favorite book from childhood—Mutiny on the Bounty. The mutineers, (remember Fletcher Christian?), and their Polynesian wives settled first on the remote island of Pitcairn in 1790. Then in 1856, many of the Bounty ancestors transferred to the more livable Norfolk Island. The British had used Norfolk, since 1788, as a penal colony.

Norfolk Island was originally ‘discovered’ by Captain Cook and named after Lady Norfolk. The Norfolk Pine, featured on the island’s flag, is a popular export. 
Cook thought the tall pines would make good masts for the sailing ships. I wonder what the wood of the hundred-year-old Norfolk pines here in Winnipeg will be used for?  
By the way, Norfolk Island (part of Australia) is 1600 kilometers east of Sydney and more than 6000 kilometers west of Pitcairn Island. 
The current population of Norfolk is about 1500. They speak English, along with Norfuk—a dialect similar to Pitkern—spoken on Pitcairn’s Island.  

There’s an art project underway at Assiniboine Parks Conservatory. Helga Jakobsen pins electrodes to plant leaves and then uses a computer program to translate the electrical impulses into sound. She’s monitoring the plants’ reaction to the big change coming in the days ahead. Maybe she’ll hear the Norfuk dialect. 

All those beautiful plants—making music and being part of history. It makes me want to slow right down and listen. 

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