Elizabeth McClintock Author of A Flora Of The San Bruno Mountains

Initial Interview with

Elizabeth McClintock

Author of

A Flora Of The San Bruno Mountains


I was born in Los Angeles in Southern California. And I came to the Bay Area around 1949 because I had a job. I’d been at graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where I got my PhD in botany. My thesis was on a monograph of the genus Hydrangia.


There was a position open at the California Academy of Sciences (CAS). I worked at the Academy until I retired in 1957. There was a director there that was not sympathetic toward women, nor toward the botany department. But I don’t want to be quoted, see. In the early years there was a nice director there, Robert Miller. They don’t recognize me there, anymore. I’m not listed as ever having worked there.


I started going onto San Bruno Mountain probably early in the 1960’s. The book was first published in 1968. Walter Knight and his wife Erie, and I were quite friendly and we just started going on the mountain and I started making these collections of plants. After several years I made quite a collection and had notes. I suppose the collections are still at the Academy but I haven’t looked at them for years. I go there sometimes but I have no connection anymore.


I have a file with some of my notes on San Bruno Mountain. It just seemed like a good idea to do a little flora on the mountain. I’d visited some areas in San Francisco but I didn’t want to duplicate anything that John Thomas Howles was doing. He was working at CAS  at the same time I was and he was interested in native plants. I became interested in ornamental plants. But I did some collecting also. I did a few collections around in San Francisco and then I started making these collections on San Bruno Mountain.


I did the native plants of San Bruno Mountain. There’s no ornamentals there. So anyway, I just wrote that up. Walter Knight contributed, he had been with me when I made the collections and then Neil Faye did a couple of early sections in the flora.


My writing a book on the flora had something to do with the fact that Guadelupe Canyon Parkway was going to be built. I knew about that because I just knew about what Crocker Land Company was going to do. I think I had met Sherman Eubanks about that time. I had no animosity at all toward him he was always very friendly. And in fact he joined us once on San Bruno Mountain as I recall, but I’d have to look back and see if I have it in my notes. I’m a little hazy now. You know this was way back in the 1960’s, thirty years ago.

I’m sure I was worried about Guadelupe and all the development planned for the mountain but what could I do? It was Crocker Land Company that owned the land.







Elizabeth McClintock—1

There was somebody at the Crocker Land Company that I had talked to before I talked to Sherman Eubanks. I don’t remember his name. I had met Mary Holmans, who was a Crocker. She moved away around 25 years ago. The Rockefellers and the Crockers were related and she was a cousin, I think, of David Rockefeller. Anyway, she knew about San Bruno Mountain and Mary was the one who first interested me in San Bruno Mountain.


She knew about the mountain because it was part of the Crocker Land Company’s properties. I’ve just completely lost track of her and don’t remember any details right now. Really I was just interested in the plants. Any of the people concerned were just incidental.


I met Helen Crocker Russell once. She was a cousin of Mary Holmans. Mary came through her mothers line, but she was a descendent of the Big Charles Crocker. There were two Crocker brothers, I recall. You can get all this information from Sherman Eubanks.


Sometime later the Crocker Land Company dissolved. Mary Holman was a member of the Crocker Land Company. Her husband later died and she left after he died. He was a member of the Crocker Land Company Board because he was married to her. They were not interested in the plants.  And being a botanist...plants were my sole interest. I have this vague recollection that they had to dissolve the Crocker Land Company because there were so many Crockers involved, there were conflicts of interest. But don’t quote me on that. I’m very vague.


James Roof made no contributions to the flora. I thank him in the book because we went on the mountain together. He was a friend of Walter Knight’s at that time and later they became unfriendly. James Roof lived, at one time, sort of at the foot of San Bruno Mountain. He looked on the mountain as his mountain. And he was friendly enough in the beginning, we went on two or three trips together. I don’t know that he ever really became unfriendly with me or disliked me for what I did on the mountain.


Jim wanted to write something about San Bruno Mountain but he would never have written flora. He would never have done what I did. He wanted to write, sort of a popular account of San Bruno Mountain. Maybe something like kind that you’re working on. He had lots of photographs and Alice Howard may have them but I haven’t seen Alice for years. I use to know her a long time ago and we were always very friendly but we didn’t keep up with each other. She worked at the University of California Herbarium and that was where I first knew her and was friendly with her. Then she retired quite a number of years ago and I didn’t see her anymore. She was a great friend of Jim Roof and I have a vague recollection that she acquired his many photographs.










Elizabeth McClintock—2