Accessibility links

A Listener Question / A Lost and Found Tree / Music by Eric Felton and his Jazz Orchestra

Paul Thompson, Jerilyn Watson and Caty Weaver


DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Jazz from Eric Felten and his band ...

A question about the most populous American state ...

And a report on a lost-and-found tree.

'Living Fossil'

Scientists used to think that Wollemi pine trees only grew in ancient history. But now one of the places where visitors can see a living example is in Washington, D.C. Faith Lapidus takes us there.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The Wollemi pine tree has thin leaves that look like needles growing close together, much like a fern plant.

The other day, a young girl took a long look at the Wollemi pine at the United States Botanic Garden. Then she asked her mother where the dinosaurs were. The little girl recognized the tree from books and movies about prehistoric Earth.

Wollemi pines can grow as tall as forty meters. But this one at the Botanic Garden is not much taller than forty centimeters. In fact, it is small enough to grow inside a glass container.

Wollemi pines have been found in only one place in the wild. It is in a rainforest in the Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, Australia, near Sydney. Fewer than one hundred have been found.

Scientists thought the tree had disappeared from the Earth at least two million years ago. But in nineteen ninety-four, a park officer named David Noble made an accidental discovery. He saw huge fern-like trees in a deep canyon. But he did not recognize them. So he asked scientists.

The experts looked at fossil prints of trees from ninety million years ago. They said the trees found by Mister Noble were closely related. They gave them the scientific name Wollemia nobilis. Wollemi pine is the common name.

Scientists at the Mount Annan Botanic Garden in New South Wales have been growing Wollemi pines from seeds and cuttings. Australian officials say there has been worldwide demand for the pine as a garden plant. So, a home version of this rare "living fossil" is expected to go on sale beginning this year.

Most Populous State?

DOUG JOHNSON: Our listener question this week comes from Amoy, China. Shaojian Xu really has two questions. What is the most beautiful city in the United States. And which state has the most people?

Well, we would be in big trouble if we called one city the most beautiful. In fact, the staff in Special English could not even agree. Some said New York, with its tall buildings. One said Seattle, with its beautiful lakes and mountains. Another said Honolulu, with its lovely beaches.

Three members of the staff said San Francisco, with its world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. You could make a good argument for any these -- and many other cities, too.

The second question was easier. Which state has the largest population? The answer is California, on the West Coast. More than thirty-five million people live there, and the number continues to grow. The estimated population of California grew almost five percent between two thousand and two thousand three.

About half the population growth comes from people who move from other states and countries. About eleven million people of Mexican ancestry live in California. Many others come from Asia. The city of San Francisco, for example, has one of the largest Chinese populations outside Asia.

California has a lot to offer. Southern California is famous for its warm, sunny weather, although you may have heard about the unusual amount of rain recently.

California also has more public colleges and universities than any other state. The California State University system is the largest in the country, with twenty-three campuses. The University of California has campuses in ten cities including Berkeley in the north and Los Angeles in the south. The tenth campus is to open this September in Merced, in Central California. Merced is in the San Joaquin Valley, a major agricultural area. California also has many community colleges.

People started moving to California in large numbers around eighteen forty-nine, the year after the discovery of gold. Most of these "forty-niners" did not find gold. But they did find other things to like, such as San Francisco. Don’t tell anyone, but that is my choice for the most beautiful city. Ahhh, but then again, San Antonio, Texas, is also beautiful. Miami, Florida is nice too. Chicago on a pretty day is very beautiful, but so is Bar Harbor, Maine, with its little fishing boats. And then again there's ... (fade)

Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra

(MUSIC: "You're Driving Me Crazy")

You might have heard that voice before on VOA. Yet you might not recognize it as the voice of VOA announcer and host Eric Felten. Eric Felten is also a jazz musician with a new recording just released. Gwen Outen has our story.

GWEN OUTEN: "Eric Felten Meets the Dek-tette" honors three famous albums from the singer Mel Torme and the Marty Paich Dek-tette.

Eric Felten gathered some of the Dek-tette musicians for the new release. They include greats like saxophonist Med Flory. He is featured in the song "It’s Alright With Me," followed by Eric Felton playing a trombone solo.


Eric Felton was born into a family of jazz musicians. He first studied the trombone with his grandfather Lester Felten. His grandfather performed in bands when Swing jazz was first popular.

Here Eric Felten and the Dek-tette perform “Pick Yourself Up,” a song from the Swing period.


Eric Felton formed his own band, the Jazz Orchestra, in nineteen ninety-one. Several years ago they appeared on national television with a concert called "The Big Band Sound of World War Two."

We leave you now with the Eric Felton Jazz Orchestra performing the Cole Porter song "You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To."


DOUG JOHNSON: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program this week.

Our show was written by Paul Thompson, Jerilyn Watson and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.