On Facebook, John Acorn posted this story about how the Canadian mint has put Acer platanoides (Norway maple) on the new dollar bills, instead of Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple). I grew up in Canada and in the words of the National anthem “…true patriot love, in all thy sons command…”. The Canadian mint has committed a serious faux paus (and demonstrated a total disregard for patriotism), the United States equivalent would be putting Haliaeetus pelagicus (Steller’s Sea Eagle) on our money instead of H. leucocephalus (Bald Eagle).
Sure it is only jingoistic pride that makes our symbol ‘better’, or is it? Both national symbols tie us to the lands we love and knowing what makes these species so awesome that they became symbols of nations, helps us know something of what makes our Nations great. People who do not understand the soils, the rivers, the resources, and the flora and fauna that makes North America such a wonderful place to live still get to live here and take up space. People who do understand these things get to live in wonder and awe, and are better citizens because they know “…true patriot love…”. You cannot love what you do not know.
In the United States, schools do not teach Natural History. Consider the budding patriots you know: your kids, relative’s kids, and the neighbor’s kids – show them something wild and cool, help them learn, share some of your natural history knowledge. It is perhaps the highest patriotic act, to instill a deep love and understanding of Nation in the next generation.