Harvey Monroe Hall conducted the first systematic survey of the plants in the San Jacintos. His flora, “A Botanical Survey of San Jacinto Mountain,” was published in 1902. Of Lilium parryi he writes:
This lily, with its tall, erect stems and conspicuous flowers either clear yellow or peppered with black, is a great favorite with the tourists and campers who annually visit the mountain. It was only a few years ago that the showy blossoms were very frequently met with along all the streams and bogs from nearly the lower edge of the Transition Zone up to an altitude of 9000 ft., thus reaching into the lower part of the Canadian Zone. While it is now by no means rare, still it is found in profusion only on the more remote parts of the mountain. That this is due entirely to the diligence of the bulb hunters is hard to believe, and yet one party took over 5000 bulbs in a single season. Perhaps this, in addition to several consecutive dry summers, is responsible for the rapid depletion in their numbers.
From this we can learn three things. 1) They were once much more abundant than they are now 2) The tourists who visited the mountain knew of them and 3) Thousands of them were dug up and forever removed from the mountain.
I began asking people who live in Idyllwild if they had ever seen a Lemon Lily. Few had even heard of them.
I wanted to see if it was still true that they could be found in profusion on the more remote parts of the mountain, or if conditions were now such that there was no hope of ever bringing them back. In 2009 I enlisted Tom Chester, along with some of our friends and colleagues, to help me count every Lemon Lily in Willow and Tahquitz Creeks. We counted 2662 plants including new seedlings, immature plants that had not yet bloomed, flowering plants, and plants in fruit with seeds. This appeared to be a healthy reproducing population. If they can still grow where they have not been disturbed by people, I began to ask why not in Idyllwild if we just give them a chance.