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Lewis Hill Preserve home to rare wildflowers
Along the grassy slopes of Lewis Hill lays a 110-acre nature preserve home to a rare and fragrant lily that blooms between the months of March and May, and is found only in two other places on Earth.
The Lewis Hill Preserve, located just north of Porterville, provides critical habitat for the endangered striped adobe lily, a state-threatened wildflower with only 15 to 20 occurrences in Tulare and Kern counties. The preserve is owned and managed by Sequoia Riverlands Trust, a regional nonprofit land trust that owns six other preserves including the Kaweah Oaks Preserve in Visalia.
“In the Sierra Nevada mountains there’s a lot of granite, but what the striped lily really needs is not granite; it likes dark metamorphic rock,” said Fletcher Linton, botanist and soils scientist with the Sequoia National Forest. “What forms on these dark rocks in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada is adobe clays,” which sets the stage for the rare flower to bloom, he said.
According to Linton, the flower only has three separate meta-populations on Earth, including one north of Porterville on Lewis Hill, one on the west side of Breckenridge Mountain outside of Bakersfield and one near the Grapevine, at Tejon Ranch.
“It’s hypothesized that the striped adobe lily was a little more common on the Valley floor, but because of farming, ranching and orcharding, it’s only left on the margins,” he said. Still, he said that having three large populations spread out over a couple of square miles is pretty good. “It’s fairly stable, but it needs conservation,” Linton said of the flower.
According to Kelly Ryan, communications director for Sequoia Riverlands Trust, the Hawkins family donated the property to the Kern River Research Center in 1994. Six years later, the title of the property was transferred to the Tule Oaks Land Trust, which is now a chapter of the Sequoia Riverlands Trust.
“A lot of times people donate property because they want to keep it in perpetuity,” Ryan said. “In other words, you want to keep the land from development.”
Once every year, Sequoia Riverlands Trust conducts a guided wildflower walk and talk on Lewis Hill’s open range. The tour involves a steep, cross-country hike to the peak of the mountain. This year, the popular tour took place March 3 and was attended by roughly 80 people, Linton said.
Linton, who has acted as the nature walk’s tour guide for 10 years, said that over the years, the event has grown in popularity, which he said is largely due to publicity. Among those in attendance March 3 were members of a Visalia photo club and other locals. In the past, science students with local high schools have also attended, he said.
Linton said that because the preserve is not managed for recreation, it is not open to the public year round, but said it is neat place to visit when the opportunity arises.
“Lewis Hill is just really neat because it has that rare plant and another rare plant known as the San Joaquin adobe sunburst,” he said. Additionally, he said, the hill has an interesting history, “The rocks have magnesite ore in them, and during WWI and WWII, people mined for magnesite.”
For more information on the Lewis Hill Preserve or Sequoia Riverlands Trust, visit http://www.sequoiariverlands.org/.
Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseMadrid_.