Despite the plant’s French spelling, California has long imposed a Spanish accent on the bougainvillea. In the early 20th century, writers and gardeners romantically imagined the plant as a living ghost of California’s mission era. Riverside hotelier Frank Miller, for example, made liberal use of it at his Mission Inn (built 1902-32), where red bougainvillea still flows today from balconies like botanical waterfalls. Poet Adeline Marshall Durlin’s ode to the plant, published by the Los Angeles Times in 1922, succinctly captures its Spanish-fantasy associations:
Passing into decay is the Bougainvillea vine.
How we miss the splendor of its graceful climb,
It takes us back to Padres, passing to and fro,
Under Mission patios of the long ago.
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