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Washington County is home to an exquisite plant that exists nowhere else on Earth—the dwarf bear poppy. Unfortunately, this unique piece of Utah’s natural heritage is facing a number of challenges.
Human impacts, including development and off-road vehicle use, continue to destroy the poppies and their habitat, and impair key plant life-cycle processes, such as pollination visits.
Listed as a federally endangered species in 1979, the survival of the bear poppy now rests in the hands of the St. George community and local conservation organizations.
Fragile Life in the Desert
Whether seen for the first time or the tenth, the dwarf bear poppy (Arctomecon humilis) elicits a sense of wonder that such beauty can emerge from the barren, gypsum-rich hills near St. George. The blue-green rosette of leaves are each lobed like a bear paw, every lobe subtended by a silver hair or “claw.”
Blossoms are sunbursts of yellow framed in sheer white petals that quiver in the breeze. Older plants bear a bouquet of hundreds of blossoms, an explosion of color and life in the desert.
You Can Help
The Nature Conservancy is working with communities, government agencies and other local organizations to protect remaining populations of the dwarf bear poppy.
Without community support and activism, however, the plant’s future looks bleak. Everyone can make a difference in the survival of this precious species.
Below are some steps you can take to help preserve part of St. George’s extraordinary landscape.
- When visiting a poppy preserve, stay on designated trails. Any soil disturbance can decrease poppy numbers.
- Spread the word—tell your friends and family about the wonders and plight of this beautiful plant.
- Support local conservation efforts through volunteer work or by contributing to organizations involved in efforts to save the bear poppy.
Visit the Preserve
The White Dome Nature Preserve is open year-round, from dawn to dusk.
A number of trails intertwine at the preserve to allow for both short and extensive exploration.
Hike the White Dome Trail System
Hike the picturesque desert trails as you observe the rare beauty of the preserve's native endangered plant species.
Although hikers are welcome, in order to protect the preserve's fragile ecosystem, dogs, bicycles and motor vehicles are not permitted.
What to SeeRare Plants
The 800-acre White Dome Nature Preserve is home to two at-risk species: the dwarf bear poppy and the Siler pincushion cactus. The Preserve offers five miles of hiking trails in this stark, mysterious habitat intended to showcase these species while respecting the delicate and threatened nature of this place.Biologic Soil Crust
It's alive! The soil is covered with living organisms that keep it and dwarf bear poppy seeds from blowing away. Biologic soil crust, or biocrust, takes decades to develop in any particular location and once established can persist for centuries if left undisturbed. Unfortunately, biocrust is extremely susceptible to human impacts. By staying on the marked trails, you help protect this important living component of the desert ecosystem.
How to Prepare for Your Visit
- Remember to bring water to stay hydrated as you walk the desert trails.
- Some trails have steep grades and loose gravel, so be sure to bring proper footwear.
- For longer hikes, feel free to bring high energy snacks and a map of the trail.
- There are no trash bins at the preserve, so please remember to pack out your trash.
Located outside St. George, Utah, the White Dome parking lot is 1.9 miles north along River Road from the Southern Parkway and about 2.7 miles south from Brigham Rd. and River Rd. junction.