Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon

The Life of The Lemmons

Today is the birthday of the botanist Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon, who was born on this day in 1836.

Lemmon is remembered for her successful 1903 piece of legislation that nominated the golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) as the state flower of California. Asa Gray named the genus Plummera in honor of Sara Plummer Lemmon. Plummera is yellow wildflowers in the daisy family,  and they bloom from July through September in southeastern Arizona.
Lemmon and her husband, John Gill Lemmon, were both botanists. Her husband always went by his initials JG. Although Sara partnered equally with her husband on their work in botany, their papers were always published with the credentials "J.G. Lemmon & Wife."
The Lemmons had found each other late in life in California. They had both suffered individually during the civil war. John was taken prisoner at Andersonville. He barely survived, and his health was impacted for the rest of his life. Sara had worked herself ragged - tending wounded soldiers in New York - while teaching.
In 1881, when Sara was 45 years old, the Lemmons took a honeymoon trip to Arizona. They called it their "botanical wedding trip." The Lemmons rode a train to Tucson along with another passenger - President Rutherford B. Hayes. When they arrived, the Lemmons set off for the Santa Catalina Mountains. In Elliot's history of Arizona, he recounts the difficulty in climbing the mountain range:

"The Lemmons often sat on the stone porch of their cave and dug the thorns and spines out of their hands and feet." Once, they saw, " . . . a lion so large he carried a huge buck away without dragging feet or antlers."

When they returned to Tucson unsuccessful and discouraged, they were told to meet a rancher named Emerson Oliver Stratton. Thanks to Stratton, they were able to ascend the Catalinas from the backside. When they arrived at the summit, Stratton was so impressed with Sara's drive and demeanor he named the mountain in her honor - Mount Lemmon. Sara was the first woman to climb the Catalinas. Twenty-five years later, in 1905, the Lemmons returned to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. When they climbed the Catalina's in celebration, Stratton was again at their side, helping them retrace the steps of their "botanical wedding trip" to the top of Mount Lemmon.

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Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon
Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon

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