The Lemmons: Partners in Botany

By Amy Weiss, Nicole Tarnowsky

Mar 22 2019

Sara Plummer met John Gill Lemmon in 1876 when he came to California to study and collect the local plants. Their shared interest in botany no doubt played a part in their love affair, and the two were married in 1880. John went on to write an account of their honeymoon in 1881, stating that his wife, “being as enthusiastic and as devoted to botany as I, was the first to propose that, instead of the usual stupid and expensive visit to a watering-place, idling our time in useless sauntering, and listening to silly gossip, we should wait a few weeks, devoting the time to study; then, at the right time, make a grand botanical raid into Arizona, and try to touch the heart of Santa Catalina.”

This was no typical honeymoon; the way was steep and full of plants with thorns and spines that tore at their clothes and embedded themselves in their flesh. They saw Gila monsters and rattlesnakes. All of their initial attempts were foiled by ridges or chasms that prevented them from going further. They eventually reached the highest peak of the Santa Catalinas, which is now named Mount Lemmon, in Sara’s honor.

The Lemmons returned to California and settled in Oakland, setting up the Lemmon Herbarium in their home; from which the two extensively botanized the West Coast. The Lemmons sent many of their collections to the great 19th-century American botanist Asa Gray for identification, and he named many species in honor of Sara and John. One was Stevia plummerae, seen here, which they collected during their honeymoon. John died in 1908 and Sara in 1923. Their headstone reads, “partners in botany.” 

Before planning your own botanical wedding trip, read more about the Lemmons’ honeymoon:

Lemmon, J. G. 1881. A botanical wedding-trip. The Californian 4(24): 517-525. Available at: (Accessed 22 March 2019).