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Bowerman, Mary L. (Mary Leolin) (1908-2005) | University and Jepson Herbaria Archives, University of California, Berkeley

Name: Bowerman, Mary L. (Mary Leolin) (1908-2005)


Historical Note:

Mary Leolin Bowerman (1908-2005), botanist, conservationist, and expert on the flora of Mount Diablo, was born on January 25, 1908 in Toronto, Canada to Lindley Bowerman and Ada Sarah Wesson Bowerman. As a child she lived in England and moved to Pasadena, California as a teenager. She attended Pasadena High School and Junior College, where she developed an interest in natural history and botany. She enrolled at the University of California in Berkeley at 1928 and received her A. B. in botany in 1930. She choose to continue her studies in botany at Berkeley and planned to obtain her  M. S. degree under the direction of Dr. Willis Jepson, but switched to a Ph. D. based on the complexity of her studies. Her botanical work focused on the flora of Mount Diablo, a project she began as a senior at the suggestion of Dr. Herbert Mason.  She collected data on climate, soils, geology, paleobotany of Mount Diablo and visited the area extensively between 1930 and 1935. After receiving her Ph. D. in 1936, she was able to continue devoting herself to botanical studies, publishing her doctoral dissertation, "A phytogeographic analysis of the vascular plants of Mount Diablo, California" in 1944 as The flowering plants and ferns of Mount Diablo, California; their distribution and association into plant communities. Her next botanical project was a flora of British Columbia based on the specimens of Thomas T. McCabe. However, this work was never finished, partly as a result of McCabe's death in 1948.

She moved from Berkeley to Lafayette, California in 1954 and was active in the Sierra Club and the California Native Plant Society. In 1971, with Art Bonwell, Bowerman became concerned about the encroachment of development on Mount Diablo and founded the group Save Mount Diablo. She served as the Save Mount Diablo vice president until 1995  and was on the Lands Acquisition Committee until her death in 2005. The group was able to expand the state park's boundaries from 6788 acres in 1971 to more than 20,000 acres in 2005. For her work to save Mount Diablo she was awarded a State of California Golden Bear Award, the John Muir Conservation Award, the Contra Costa County Women's Hall of Fame, and the Daughters of the American Revolutions' National Conservation Medal among many other honors. On May 22, 1982, the trail at the summit of Mount Diablo was named the Mary Leolin Bowerman Fire Interpretative Trail. In 2002, she collaborated with Dr. Barbara Ertter, Curator of Western North American Flora at the Jepson Herbarium, to produce an updated and expanded version of her book, The flowering plants and ferns of Mount Diablo, California.

Mary Leolin Bowerman passed away on August 21, 2005 at her home in Lafayette, California.






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