- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) - Guam may ditch the colorful blossoms of an invasive plant and instead adopt the white petals of a native shrub as its national flower.

Speaker Judith Won Pat introduced a bill that would make the torchwood plant known as gaosali the U.S. territory’s official flower, the Pacific Daily News (http://bit.ly/1pt0hbC ) reported.

Gaosali has a white flower with stems that can be used as candles. Its wood may be used to make torches.

Guam’s national flower is currently the bougainvillea, which grows bright red and purple flowers. The South American plant has no unique connection to Guam or the Mariana Islands, Won Pat said.

“As one of few native plants that still thrive on Guam, it is important to take pride in the gaosali and to protect it,” Won Pat said.

Several organizations, including the water conservation district’s board and the Guam Department of Education’s Chamorro studies division, requested the change, she said.

The speaker said there’s recently been much discussion about the need to preserve the Chamorro language and way of life as development of the island moves forward.

“Our native plants are an important part of our culture that have been and continue to be threatened by invasive species, construction and other unnatural disturbances to our environment,” she said.

Some residents say lawmakers should have other priorities, such as fixing Guam’s hospital or address public safety agency problems.

“With everything else going on, with every bill you could have proposed, with every wrong you can attempt to make right, you chose to change Guam’s national flower?” Burt Cruz wrote in an email to the senator.

Won Pat, who leads the sole chamber in Guam’s unicameral legislature, noted she’s introduced 35 bills this term. They’ve included funding for new police cars, Medicaid, and the expansion and renovation of two high schools.

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Information from: Pacific Daily News: http://www.guampdn.com

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