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Theodore Payne and California’s Wildflowers

Articles: Theodore Payne and California’s Wildflowers

The rapidity with which the wild flowers are decreasing is most alarming. If we do not begin to preserve them, the time will soon be here when they will become extinct and live only in history.
Theodore Payne, 1916

A few days after Christmas 1962, Theodore Payne, then ninety years old, visited fel­low plantsman Eddie Merrill, owner of La Tuna Nursery on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Payne had just published a volume of memoirs, Life on the Modjeska Ranch in the Gay Nineties, and he brought a copy as a gift for his friend. Having operated his own nursery for fifty-five years, Payne naturally looked over Merrill’s stock of conifers and California natives and even climbed the hill to collect some zauschneria seeds. As Merrill would note on the endpapers of the gift book, this was Payne’s last visit to La Tuna. The Englishman turned Californian who did so much to encourage the preservation and cultivation of the state’s native plants, died May 6, 1963. Today the twenty-one-acre canyon site once occupied by La Tuna Nursery is home to the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants.

Theodore Payne at ab...

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