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Don Mullally: After flower theft, be vigilant against nature crime

Posted: July 6, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 6, 2011 1:55 a.m.

During the Memorial Day holiday, we lost nearly all of the wildflowers known as mariposa lilies growing in two areas of Ed Davis Park. They were stolen while in gorgeous full bloom.

Two species or kinds of the lilies were taken: one being yellow mariposa lily; the other being butterfly mariposa lily. They are usually considered the most beautiful wildflowers occurring in the Santa Clarita Valley’s woodlands.

Theft of the flowers was discovered early morning on May 31 by myself and my wife Mary. Between 1987 and 2000, I worked to form the Santa Clarita Woodlands Park, which includes the present Ed Davis Park.

We were there to enjoy viewing the two areas of wildflowers examined earlier in May by me and three employees of the National Park Service. Mary was profoundly disappointed by the disappearance of the lilies. The presence of other flowers, including larkspurs, masses of purple clarkia and farewell to spring clarkia, partially saved her day.

Unusually cool and wet weather this spring delayed the appearance and blooming of most kinds of local wildflowers. During mid-May I finally noted the commencement of flowering by a few mariposa lilies.

A week later, Dr. Henry Schultz and I went to Ed Davis Park to once again examine and enjoy the lilies. By this date, twice as many of them were flowering despite cloudy and damp weather.

On May 27, three employees the National Park Service led by Margie Steigerwald were guided by me to the two locations having mariposa lilies. The number of lilies had increased significantly. Photos were taken, and everyone present was pleased if not amazed. This was the last time they were to see the mariposa lilies in Towsley Canyon.

By Tuesday, May 31, the flowers were gone, perhaps forever.

Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon, and the entire Santa Clarita Woodlands Park, is quite popular. For its size, the Davis section of the park is probably the most heavily used park created by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Nearly all visitors are excellent park patrons and law-abiding individuals. Pickers of a few wildflowers are usually children and older people who are not aware of the laws protecting park wildlife and vegetation including the wildflowers. The uninformed are not maliciously destructive.

However, the recent theft of nearly all flowering mariposa lilies in at least two separate locations also indicates the presence of potential and active criminals.

Of additional interest is the fact that the stalks of the lily flowers were also taken. Were flowers and stocks harvested and then taken to be sold as cut flowers or used as sources of valuable wildflower seeds?

At this point, I’m suggesting the possibility of poaching — plant poaching. Perhaps this 4,000-plus-acre park is also used for the poaching of deer, fur-bearing mammals and reptiles.

We don’t know for sure. However, none of our large mammals that have lost sufficient fear to forage, rest or move location in the field of vision of human visitors are present for long. They mysteriously disappear. The Woodlands Park is no Yosemite or Yellowstone.

Despite the presence of a few park rangers and occasional visits to the park by Santa Clarita sheriffs deputies, the Santa Clarita Woodlands Park has security problems. 

A weak economy has led to understaffing by officers of law enforcement. As a result, security of the park and of ourselves while in the park is largely up to us as individuals.

Be watchful and pay attention to inappropriate, destructive or suspicious activities and behavior. Provide information to the authorities, but don’t endanger yourself by personal involvement with suspicious people or violators. Write down the date, time, place or location and personal observations.

Be particularly alert early in the morning and late in the day, and practice listening and interpreting what you hear. Pay attention to the evidence of misdeeds such as skins, partial skeletons, shell casings, dug-out plants, evidence of camps or work places, broken or lost arrows, odors of rotten animal carcasses, etc.

Let these practices become second nature while you enjoy yourself in the park.

Don Mullally is a Granada Hills resident.


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