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Plummer’s Mariposa Lily has Colorful History, Like its Namesake

May 18, 2021 | MSHCP, Species

The Plummer’s Mariposa Lily is a rare flower found only in a small section of southern California’s mountain ranges, including the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains. The flower is designated by the U.S. Forest Service as a “sensitive species,” which means its population viability is a concern.

The showy lavender, pink, or white petals bloom from May to July, with two to six flowers on each plant. The key distinguishing characteristic of this species is the fur-like appearance of hairs on the inside of its petals.

Though it appears delicate like a butterfly (mariposa means butterfly in Spanish), Calochortus Plummerae is a hardy species much like its namesake, Sara Plummer Lemmon. A progressive 19th century botanist, Plummer earned high marks in chemistry and physics in college, volunteered as a Civil War nurse, and then traveled solo to California. She hiked throughout the west in search of plants during a time when a woman’s place was in the kitchen, not on hillsides. Plummer was an early advocate of forest conservation, the second woman to be named to the California Academy of Natural Sciences, and a champion for nearly 10 years to make the golden poppy the California state flower, which became official in 1903.

The Plummer’s Mariposa Lily is one of the 146 species is protected under the Western Riverside County MSHCP. Currently, urban development threatens the future of this species. The conservation goal for the lily is to include 167,580 acres of suitable habitat within the MSHCP area. Once the total acreage is acquired, 72% of the species’ total potential habitat will be protected for future generations to enjoy