#MySanDiego: Balboa Park's urban legend

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SAN DIEGO – While Balboa Park is a well-known San Diego jewel, it also carries a strange urban legend dating back to the 1920s. The story involves Marines and plant theft in the cover of night.

“In the Marine Corp we like to say, ‘never ever let facts get in the way of a good sea story,’” said Brig. Gen. James W. Bierman at a ceremony May 9 in Balboa Park.  

Here's the sea story. In the 1920s, Major General Smedley Butler granted Marines time off if they provided plants to furnish his gardens.

So, to get their days off, the marines would dig up plants from Balboa Park. As the story goes, General Butler didn’t learn about the practice until he met the San Diego mayor at the time, Jon Bacon, at an event.
Today, no one seems to know for certain if that really happened. But the plants found in General Butler's garden are quite similar to the plants at Balboa Park.

To make amends, without officially admitting it happened, the Marines presented the city and current Mayor Kevin Faulconer with a Tecate cypress tree and some other plants at a ceremony Saturday as part of the Balboa Park Centennial celebration.

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