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A History of Guahan’s Flora

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By Robert Bevacqua, PhD Science Teacher Guam High School robert.bevacqua@pac.dodea.edu

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Abstract: Guahan’s history can be traced through its tropical vegetation. The first plants (endemic) developed in isolation on the uninhabited island. Then there were successive waves of plants arriving by natural means (indigenous), on board Chamorro voyaging canoes, Spanish sailing ships, American war vessels, and, most recently, airplanes. Some of the recent introductions have become invasive plant species that have the potential of dramatically changing the island landscape. This presentation will form the basis of a professional development opportunity for school teachers interested in expanding their lesson plans to include island flora and fauna in a historical perspective. The most distinguishing environmental feature of Guahan, formerly Guam, is its greenery1. The first impression of visitors is of the many vibrant shades of green. The lush island vegetation can be a tangle of trees, shrubs, and vines, but by looking closely at the individual plants that make up the tropical jungle, it is possible to trace the island’s history through the verdant flora. The first plants developed in isolation on the uninhabited island. Then there were successive waves of plants arriving by natural means, on board voyaging canoes, Spanish sailing ships, American war vessels, and, most recently, airplanes.

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Vocabulary There are terms that need to be defined before we can trace the island’s history through its plants:

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Endemic plants are those that developed in the Mariana Islands and are found nowhere else in the world (Table 1). Some of the wild orchids and the seeded breadfruit or dokdok are examples of endemic plants – ones are that unique to the Mariana Islands.

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Mick Subbert of Guam High School, a biology teacher with 25 years of experience in teaching about Guahan’s flora and fauna, provided much of the reference materials used in this article. 2nd Marianas History Conference 2013 ・ !257

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