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Peg Smith walks on Black Mountain, where she took care of Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve near Prather.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

The ruins of the Kneeland homestead sit on Black Mountain. Clarissa Kneeland first protected the Carpenteria flower on Black Mountain.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Carpenteria californica blooms at Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Peg Smith stands among flowers on the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve. She and her husband worked to form a local foothill conservation organization.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Mustang clovers display their purple hue in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Chinese house flowers, with their magenta tips, grow in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Vibrant wall flowers cover parts of the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Lace pods sprout in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Ithuriel's spears seem to sway in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

The pale yellow mountain pretty face flower shines in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

California milkweed has a home in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Spider lupines show off their color in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Termite towers pop up in the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Peg Smith walks toward the ruins of the Kneeland homestead.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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A variety of wildflowers are in bloom at the Mary Elizabeth Miller Preserve at Black Mountain, near Prather, Calif.

In all the world, the pretty white flower Carpenteria californica grows wild only in small portions of Fresno and Madera counties. Indeed, mostly it is found here, on this lone foothill called Black Mountain. Through the decades, people who have lived on the mountain — from a Utopian socialist to a secretly rich chemistry professor — have fallen in love with the mysterious flower. In the end, it was their regard for the flower that protected the mountain and that is now fueling a conservation effort in California’s Sierra foothills.

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