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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.