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Flowers of Nairobi

In a recent read article, I read about the tiny flowers of Nairobi.

In and around overpopulated Nairobi, one can spot the tiny purple and white flowers of the knotweed, or the bright yellow blooms of the blackjack weed or the elongated appendages of the devil's horsewhip.

But this is a story of a different kind of flower, which also comes in many colors but lacks the beauty of the many varieties discovered in nature by Sapieha. All over Nairobi, and all over Africa, are ugly artificial blooms that mar the landscape and that environmentalists want plucked up and removed.

These flowers are cheap, thin plastic bags that are tossed to the ground by consumers. This kind of litter has reached a critical mass in Kenya, clogging streams, choking animals and piling up into little mountains of disease.

These bags are different from the ones that Westerners carry their groceries in from the neighborhood supermarket; the Kenyan bags are so thin they barely hold a few mangoes without tearing.

Their delicate nature makes reuse impossible and leads to their frequent introduction into nature, where experts say they tend to remain without breaking down for somewhere around 1,000 years. The bags are so pervasive in this part of the world that many have taken to calling them "African flowers," as if they were local varieties of roses or bougainvillea.

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