Jane Pinheiro (1907 - 1978) is known in the Antelope Valley as “The Great Poppy Lady”, partly because she played a vital role in the conservation of local natural landscapes and partly because of her famed depictions of local wildflowers. Jane was instrumental in establishing at least eight wildflower and wildlife sanctuaries in the Antelope Valley. Among these, the Interpretive Center at the California State Poppy Reserve is named in her honor, for her tireless work as a conservationist.
In the late 1920s, Jane and her mother moved to Pasadena from Colorado to operate a boarding house. One of the guests was a young dairyman, Joseph Pinheiro, a native of the Azores. He and Jane married in 1930.
Jane and her husband moved to the Antelope Valley in 1940, where Joe got a job working at “Pancho” Barnes’ famed dude ranch, "The Happy Bottom Riding Club". It was during this time, Jane became fascinated with the desert flora and began to sketch and paint them. Though she was a self-taught artist, her watercolor depictions are so botanically correct that they are often used for identification purposes.
To assist the visitors who came to the Antelope Valley to witness the wildflower blooms each spring, Jane established an information center in 1963. It was first located on Sierra Highway, then at the fairgrounds, and finally at the Lancaster Museum and Art Gallery on Cedar Street. The Antelope Valley California State Poppy Reserve, in its current location, was dedicated in 1976, with Jane in attendance. The Interpretive Center was dedicated in Jane's honor after her death on April 17, 1982, with her husband Joe in attendance.
Jane did whatever she thought necessary to protect the natural beauty of the desert. Toward the preservation of Joshua trees, she enlisted the support of Assemblyman Allen Miller, making the 2,720-acre Joshua Tree State Park a reality in 1960. This park was renamed as Saddleback Butte State Park to avoid confusion with the Joshua Tree National Monument (now the Joshua Tree National Park).
In addition to her many local and state projects, she brought great honor to the community when she earned two national awards in conservation: the coveted National Oak Leaf Service award from The Nature Conservancy and the Sol Feinstein Environmental award.
Jane died on October 14, 1978, and her husband Joe in August 1982. Her living legacy will persist forever in her paintings, the organizations she founded, and the parks she helped to establish.
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"