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Yreka Episcopal Priest Discovers Rare Flower

A rare plant discovered in 1876 by an Episcopal priest, Edward Lee Greene, grows only in four known places in Siskiyou County, including near Jackson Street in Yreka.

After being assigned for a year at St. Laurence’s Episcopal Church in Yreka, Greene became a botanist at the University of California, Berkeley.  Elias Nelson recorded Greene’s discovery in 1899.

The plant, the Yreka Phlox, blossoms in pink and purple from April through June.  It is believed Greene discovered the plant on Soap Box Ridge.  The two other Siskiyou County locations are China Hill and Cracker Gulch.

On Feb. 3, 2000, a lawsuit brought by the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and the Native Plant Society of Oregon got Yreka Phlox listed as “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

The Wildlands Center says the main threats to Yreka Phlox are alteration or destruction of habitat on private land parcels zoned for residential development, timber harvesting, road construction, and off-road vehicle use.” 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is currently reviewing a Draft Recovery Plan through propagation from its seed collection and permanent protection of the plant.

Yreka named the rare plant as the city’s official flower in 2009.

Sources: "Yreka Phlox." KS Wild. Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. http://kswild.org/what-we-do-2/biodiversity/species-profiles/yrekaphlox; "Phlox Hirsuta." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 17 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.