Guide to the Helen Chamlee Collection MS 303

Finding aid prepared by Samantha Mills
San Diego History Center Document Collection
1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101
August 18, 2016

Title: Helen Chamlee Collection
Identifier/Call Number: MS 303
Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
Language of Material: English
Physical Description: 4.5 Linear feet (9 boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1933-1991
Abstract: This collection contains the personal papers, written works, and subject files of Helen Chamlee, a botanist at the San Diego Natural History Museum in the 1970s.
creator: Chamlee, Helen

Biographical / Historical Notes

Born Helen Vallejo in 1908, Chamlee was a native San Diegan who was dedicated to botany, especially native species. A graduate of San Diego State University, she joined the staff at the San Diego Natural History Museum in 1969. After seven years in the Botany Department, Chamlee transferred to the Educational Activities Department and remained there for the duration of her career. She led countless field trips to parks, mountains, and deserts of the region, gave lectures on native plants, participated in workshops, seminars, and trainings. She developed at least 14 nature trails in San Diego County. Perhaps her greatest achievement while at the Natural History Museum was securing Florida Canyon in Balboa Park as a native plant preserve. She is also responsible for creating the museum’s naturalist guide group, the Canyoneers.
Chamlee’s passion for native plants reached beyond her role at the Natural History Museum. She served as Botanical Editor for California Garden magazine, and was a contributing editor to Fremontia. She wrote a weekly column, “Canyon Trails,” that appeared in the Evening Tribune in the late 1970s, and published a book on the ferns of San Diego County. Chamlee was also a charter member of the California Native Plant Society, serving as President of the San Diego Chapter for two years, and was later honored as a Fellow. Her influence and contributions in the field were further recognized in 1977 when Chamlee received the honor award from the California Council of Landscape Architects. Additionally, a native plant garden at the Wild Animal Park (now Safari Park) was named after her. Chamlee developed a native botanic garden on her own two-acre property —dubbed Canyon Trails—and opened it once each year to public view.
Helen Chamlee died in 1982.

Scope and Content

The collection contains Chamlee’s personal papers and writings as well as her subject files. Her writings include manuscripts of articles and her weekly newspaper column, “Canyon Trails.” The bulk of the collection contains subject files maintained by Chamlee. Most subjects pertain to botany, native plants, parks and canyons in San Diego County and other California locations, and fauna in relation to botany. The subject files often contain newspaper and magazine articles, brochures, and other types of publications in addition to Chamlee’s own notes pertaining to the subject. A large subject area focuses on Balboa Park and especially Florida Canyon and the efforts made to designate it as a native plant preserve. Field trip plans and handouts from the Natural History Museum are also well represented.


This collection is arranged in two series:
Series I: Personal Papers;
Series II: Subject Files.

Preferred Citation

Helen Witham Chamlee Collection, MS 303, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Helen Chamlee’s files were given to her friend, Carol Greentree. Greentree later donated them to the San Diego History Center along with her own files and those of Jean Marie Consigny Putman—all three focusing on botany.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Frank Sweeney in 2014.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

San Diego Natural History Museum.
Anza-Borrego Desert (Calif.)
Arid regions plants
Balboa Park (San Diego, Calif.)
Botanical gardens
Endemic plants
Fire resistant plants
Gardens -- California -- San Diego
Native plant gardens--California
Nature trails--California
San Diego (Calif.)
Torrey Pines State Reserve (Calif.)
Wild flowers


Series I: Personal Papers

Box-folder 1:1

Manuscripts of articles, 1973-1979

Box-folder 1:2

Biographical Information, 1982-1991

Box-folder 1:3

Canyon Trails, 1977-1978

Box-folder 1:4

Canyon Trails, 1979-1980

Box-folder 1:5

Correspondence, 1976-1977

Box-folder 1:6

Correspondence—Sunset Magazine, 1972-1973

Box-folder 1:7

"Fremontia" Articles, 1978

Box-folder 1:8

Landscaping for “Buffer” Adjacent to Northerly Property Line, San Diego Consolidated Co., undated

Box-folder 1:9

Legal Documents, 1939-1947

Box-folder 1:10

Publication Ideas, 1973


Series II: Subject Files

Box-folder 1:11

American Society of Landscape Architects, 1977-1978

Box-folder 1:12

Anza-Borrego, 1977-1980

Box-folder 1:13

Arboreta and Botanical Gardens, c.1962-1981

Box-folder 1:14

Arizona (Desert Gardens), c.1980

Box-folder 1:15

Balboa Park—Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3), 1970-1978

Box-folder 1:16

Balboa Park—Florida Canyon (1 of 2), 1970-1976

Box-folder 2:1

Balboa Park—Florida Canyon (2 of 2), 1970-1980

Box-folder 2:2

Balboa Park—Florida Canyon Correspondence, 1969-1979

Box-folder 2:3

Balboa Park—Florida Canyon Field Trips, 1973

Box-folder 2:4

Balboa Park—Florida Canyon Master Plan, 1976

Box-folder 2:5

Balboa Park—Florida Canyon Trail Guide, 1973-1976

Box-folder 2:6

Balboa Park—Japanese Garden, 1977-1978

Box-folder 2:7

Balboa Park—Natives, Cactus, etc. , 1970-1976

Box-folder 2:8

Balboa Park—Plants of the San Diego Zoo, 1975-1976

Box-folder 3:1

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum Activities, 1977-1982

Box-folder 3:2

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum--“Day in the Wildwood,” 1978

Box-folder 3:3

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum-- Docent Training, 1968-1973

Box-folder 3:4

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum—“A Look at Native Plants,” undated

Box-folder 3:5

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum—Handouts, 1976-1980

Box-folder 3:6

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum—Nature Walks, 1967-1971

Box-folder 3:7

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum—Seminars, 1978

Box-folder 3:8

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum—Sierra Juarez Trip, 1974-1977

Box-folder 3:9

Balboa Park—San Diego Natural History Museum—Albert Valentien Paintings, 1974-1977

Box-folder 3:10

Balboa Park—Tree Walk, 1973

Box-folder 3:11

Biological Control of Insects, 1947-1981

Box-folder 3:12

Bird Plants, 1973-1976

Box-folder 3:13

Birds—Garden, 1973-1978

Box-folder 3:14

Birds—San Diego County, 1970-1978

Box-folder 4:1

Botany, 1951-1981

Box-folder 4:2

Botany for the Blind, 1972-1974

Box-folder 4:3

Cabrillo Nature Trails, 1974-1979

Box-folder 4:4

Cactus Garden, 1976

Box-folder 4:5

California Association of Park & Recreation Commissioners and Board Members (CAPRCBM), 1971-1972

Box-folder 4:6

California Herbaria by County, 1970-1978

Box-folder 4:7

California Native Plant Society, 1979

Box-folder 4:8

California Natural Areas Coordinating Council, 1959-1975

Box-folder 4:9

California Poppy, 1962-1974

Box-folder 4:10

CALTRANS, 1975-1979


A photo of Helen Chamlee.
Box-folder 4:11

Camp Pendleton, 1971-1973

Box-folder 4:12

Christmas Trees, c.1971

Box-folder 4:13

Christmas Week Park Walks, 1978

Box-folder 4:14

City/County Parks, undated

Box-folder 4:15

Condors, 1977

Box-folder 4:16

Conservation, 1954-1976

Box-folder 4:17

Cowles Mountain, 1980

Box-folder 5:1

Cuyamaca Mountains, 1975-1978

Box-folder 5:2

Department of Education—Community Education Resources, 1972-1974

Box-folder 5:3

Desert Ecology and Plants, 1974-1981

Box-folder 5:4

Dos Picos Park, 1977

Box-folder 5:5

Eating Flowers, 1968-1975

Box-folder 5:6

Ecology—Louise Howton, 1976-1978

Box-folder 5:7

Ethnobotany of Cupeño Indians, 1972

Box-folder 5:8

Ethnobotany of Pamo Valley, 1975

Box-folder 5:9

Eucalyptus, undated

Box-folder 5:10

Ferns, undated

Box-folder 5:11

Fire Resistant, 1962-1977

Box-folder 5:12

Flinn Springs County Park, 1973-1979

Box-folder 5:13

Fortuna Mountain, 1978

Box-folder 6:1

Garden Fossils, 1970-1971

Box-folder 6:2

Geology of San Diego, 1977

Box-folder 6:3

Glen Helen Regional Park (San Bernardino County), undated

Box-folder 6:4

Guayale and Jojoba Plants, 1972-1977

Box-folder 6:5

Idyllwild, 1961-1980

Box-folder 6:6

Insects, undated

Box-folder 6:7

Islands (Santa Cruz and Catalina), 1969-1977

Box-folder 6:8

Isomeris Arborea, undated

Box-folder 6:9

Joshua Tree, 1972-1979

Box-folder 6:10

Key to Common Shrubs of San Diego, 1971-1973

Box-folder 6:11

Laguna Mountain, 1976-1980

Box-folder 6:12

Landscape Design Study Course, 1964-1973

Box-folder 6:13

Lake Poway, 1978

Box-folder 6:14

Los Penasquitos Lagoon, 1970-1971

Box-folder 6:15

Marston Canyon, undated

Box-folder 6:16

Miscellaneous Articles and Brochures, 1969-1980

Box-folder 6:17

Morphology, 1969

Box-folder 6:18

Native Plants, 1973

Box-folder 7:1

Native Plants—Early Uses, 1969-1976

Box-folder 7:2

Native Plants—“Indian Uses,” 1969-1976

Box-folder 7:3

Natural History Subjects, 1963-1980

Box-folder 7:4

Nature Conservancy, 1974-1975

Box-folder 7:5

Nature Walks, c.1975

Box-folder 7:6

Old Town, 1977-1978

Box-folder 7:7

Open Space/Slope Restoration, 1977-1978

Box-folder 7:8

Otay, 1975-1978

Box-folder 7:9

Palomar Mountain, 1935-1978

Box-folder 7:10

Plant Protection Ordinance, undated

Box-folder 8:1

“Planting” Articles, 1945-1977

Box-folder 8:2

Plants and Gardens—Clippings and Articles, c.1977

Box-folder 8:3

Plants of Mitchell Caverns (San Bernardino County), 1972-1973

Box-folder 8:4

Plants of Salt Marshes in San Diego, undated

Box-folder 8:5

Poppy Park (Riverside), 1973

Box-folder 8:6

Presidio Park, 1977-1981

Box-folder 8:7

Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens (Claremont), 1947-c.1970

Box-folder 8:8

San Clemente Canyon, 1978

Box-folder 8:9

San Dieguito Regional Park, 1976-1981

Box-folder 8:10

Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary (Lakeside), 1978-1979

Box-folder 8:11

Soil, undated

Box-folder 8:12

Soils, North County—George Borst, 1968-1978

Box-folder 8:13

South Bay—Newspaper Clippings, 1971

Box-folder 8:14

Strybing Arboretum (San Francisco), 1974-1975

Box-folder 8:15

Teachers Guides, c.1971-1975

Box-folder 8:16

Tecolote Canyon, 1977-1979

Box-folder 8:17

Torreyana (Torrey Pines Docent Society), 1975-1981

Box-folder 9:1

Torrey Pines, 1959-1979

Box-folder 9:2

UCSD Extension, 1971

Box-folder 9:3

University of California, Berkeley, 1975

Box-folder 9:4

University of San Diego Nature Walk, 1979

Box-folder 9:5

USDA Soil Surveys: Oceanside, El Cajon, Capistrano Area, c.1933

Box-folder 9:6

Valley Center School Nature Study Center, Teacher’s Handbook and Field Guide, 1972

Box-folder 9:7

Vascular Plants of San Diego County, 1959

Box-folder 9:8

Wildflowers and Blossoms by County, 1978

Box-folder 9:9

William Heise Park (Laguna Mountains), 1977-1981