Who Was Mary?

Botanist, mother, author, environmental leader, avid outdoorswoman, homemaker, visionary, grandmother, educator, respected friend. These are just a few of the words that could be used to describe Mary DeDecker. She was born in Oklahoma (1909), then moved to Southern California during her childhood. In 1935, Mary, her husband Paul, and two young daughters moved to Independence. The family delighted in exploring the mountains and valleys of their vast and wild new home.

Mary DeDecker, taking a close look.

Mary’s long interest in plants drew her to closer inspection of the flora of the region. She became a self-taught botanist and began sending specimens to botanists at academic institutions throughout the country who were eager to receive plants from this remote region. On her own, Mary collected, keyed, and preserved thousands of plant specimens in a private herbarium in Paul’s well-kept garage. She became the undisputed authority on the flora of the eastern Sierra and northern Mojave.

She discovered more than one plant species new to scientists and she and her daughters created the “common names” for many of the local wildflowers. One important desert foray led to her discovery of a shrub in the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae) that had not been previously described. The shrub turned out to be a new genus and was named in her honor, Dedeckera eurekensis (July gold); in fact, the canyon in which it was discovered was officially named DeDeckera Canyon!

The intrepid Mary DeDecker

As important as her discovery and cataloguing of the numerous species, Mary also worked tirelessly to preserve the unique habitats in which the plants were found. She served on committees and commissions, wrote informed letters and comments to government agencies, authored books and newspaper articles, influenced legislation, fought to save the ecological integrity of the Owens Valley from Los Angeles’ groundwater pumping activities, founded the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and ultimately helped not only to raise the public’s awareness of the value of native plant species but also to preserve those species in their natural habitats.

In September 2000, Mary DeDecker passed away, but her work will continue through the efforts of the many people she inspired.

Keep the Legacy Alive

Enjoy the fruits of Mary’s labor and continue the work she began decades ago.

Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant

Help to continue Mary DeDecker’s life work by contributing to the knowledge, appreciation and conservation of local native plants:  apply for the Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant!

Plant Checklists

Have you been keeping notes and creating lists on your botanical forays?  Contribute plant checklists to our chapter database.

Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden

Visit the Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden in Independence, right next to the Eastern California Museum.  Watch our News and Events page and Facebook page for volunteer workdays at the garden.

Native Plant Sales

Support the Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant by creating your own native plant garden with plants from our chapter native plant sales.  Plant sale proceeds go to funding the grant program.

Make a contribution in Mary's memory

Donations can be sent to:

Bristlecone Chapter, CNPS
PO Box 364
Bishop, CA 93515