Friday, June 12, 2020

The Wild Woman who made History with a Mountain, a Flower & More

By Jacqui Nelson

Can you imagine having a mountain named after you? Or being responsible for a flower becoming a state flower? Sara Plummer Lemmon accomplished both feats with no formal training in botany. Here's how she made history...

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Sara Plummer Lemmon 
( born 1836 in New Gloucester, Maine ) 

Sara in 1865
Sara was educated at the Female College of Worcester in Massachusetts, taught art in New York City, and served as a nurse during the Civil War.

In 1869 (after becoming ill and hearing that California’s weather could help one’s health), she moved to Santa Barbara.

She established the Lending Library and Stationery Depot and charged $5 membership or 10 cents for borrowing books, sold art and music supplies, hosted lectures and exhibits, and while out walking acquired an interest in botany and began painting botanical illustrations.

In 1876, she met John Gill Lemmon (a Civil War veteran, former Andersonville prisoner, and fellow self-trained botanist) while he was giving a lecture.

In 1880, they married and honeymooned in Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains where they cataloged a number of species unique to the mountain. Sara was the first white woman to ascend the mountain's tallest peak and it was named Mount Lemmon in her honor.

Sara & John camping during their honeymoon on Mount Lemmon
(photo LocalWiki Contributors)

Mount Lemmon, Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona

Sara and John continued traveling and cataloging botany but also developed the Lemmon Herbarium at their home in Oakland (which they later donated to UC Berkeley). 

In 1882, Sara discovered a new genus of plants called Plummera floribunda. From 1888–1892, she worked as the California State Board of Forestry’s official artist. In 1893, she lectured on forest conservation at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

During the 1890s, she advocated for the adoption of the golden poppy as California’s state flower and wrote the bill eventually signed by the California Legislature in 1903.

I love California/golden poppies! ❤️ 

I see them everywhere here on British Columbia's southwest coast. I also remember them from the farm in Alberta where I grew up. They are an old and dear friend.

What's your favorite state or provincial flower?

Here are the lists of America's state flowers and Canada's provincial flowers (plus more).

I love the wild rose which is the provincial flower of Alberta and (which I've just learned while researching this blog) is the state flower of North Dakota and Iowa too!

Although, scientifically I guess they are different...or at least they would be to a botanist like Sara who'd call them Rosa arkansana and Rosa acicularis. Attention to details like this is probably why she got a mountain named after her 🙂

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Julie Lence said...

Thank you for sharing, Jacqui. Such a pretty flower. I can see why she pushed to make it California's state flower. Hugs!

Alicia Haney said...

This is so very interesting, Thank you so much for sharing this informations, I enjoyed reading it. I Love flowers , I love carnations and I think the Rock roses are beautiful . That is pretty awesome having a mountain named after her. Have a Great weekend. Stay safe . God bless you.

Shanna Hatfield said...

Such a cool post, Jacqui. Thanks for sharing with us!

Alice V said...

I give up, Jacqui. I love violets and mayflowers and apple blossom and roses, and . . . I guess all of the above is not an acceptable answer.:-)

ptclayton said...

Jacqui I just love the Ca also not because I lived there for 49 years as I lived in the city and saw no Ca poppy unless I taught it in school or went on a road trip that is where I saw them most. They are so pretty I also plant them here in eastern Iowa and just love them. My fav flower is the sunflower there are many kinds and i love them all. When my mom was alive and we walked past a florist she had to get herself a bunch of violets as that was her fav. Thank you for a wonderful blog! I so miss all of the authors that I got to meet on GLIAS.

Jacqui Nelson said...

Julie, thanks for commenting! Hugs to you too.
Alicia, wonderful to hear you enjoyed reading my blog post! I love carnations as well, and I just realized (or re-learned or re-remembered because the details tend to escape me sooner or later) that Sweet Williams (one of my favorite childhood flowers) is a carnation.
Shanna, thanks for saying my blog post was cool!
Alice, I'm like you, I love so many flowers! From the State flower list, I could have also chosen peonies, purple lilacs, red clover, Indian paintbrush, and more. So, I think "all of the above" is a very appropriate answer.
Peggy, I love sunflowers too, and they are my sister's favorite! It's definitely a challenge to walk by a flower shop and not get something...anything...but a favorite would be impossible to pass by. I miss seeing you and everyone on GLIAS too. Hopefully, we can get back to our normal routine soon.