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Lester Rowntree

Articles: Lester Rowntree

Lester Rowntree (1879-1979) pioneered the study, propagation, and conservation of California native plants. Through hundreds of magazine and journal articles, two critically acclaimed books, and uncounted public lectures, she shared her vast knowledge of California and the West. The only way to truly understand native plants, she believed, was to live with them for weeks at a time in their natural surroundings.
Many saw Lester as a kind of mountain mystic. She was both a free spirit and a recluse. At age 52, she traded a comfortable California home life for an uncertain, peripatetic, hand-to-mouth existence. Because of their similarities, Lester is often described as a female John Muir, who also worshipped on Sierran peaks, bathed in their streams, and lived for months in the mountains on beans and bread. Like Muir, Lester brought to the public consciousness both the beauty of nature and the need for environmental conservation. In her words:
"The best places of all were in the high mountains, where I knew no one was camping above me. I used to love sleeping at the edge of snow banks during thaw time to watch the alpines open with the rising sun."
From her earliest fiel...


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