The plants, which twist for 40 feet around the palms, were planted near the turn of the last century around the edges of an orange grove, one of many citrus farms that carpeted the region at the time. As the tropical plants grew, images of them were used to market both Glendora and California as a lush paradise during the state’s booster period. In 1977, the bougainvillea became a state historical landmark, thanks to a nomination by then-owner Lloyd Pittman, who ran the 10-acre valencia and navel grove. The next year, the vines became the first plant to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For the Pittmans, the bougainvillea was a point of pride. Lloyd Pittman, now 91, constructed steel trellises for each tree before he sold most of his property in the mid-1980s. “It’s been a part of our lives, and we felt it was significant enough to fight for,” said his son Galen Pittman, a horticultural curator for the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Since taking over care of the vines in the 1980s, the city has struggled to maintain the bougainvillea, which threatens to topple the slender palm trees to which it is attached, Glendora Parks Superintendent Halla Speaker said. The bougainvillea requires more regular pruning and needs a stronger support structure, according to Glendora resident and Monrovia Growers employee Katharine Rudnyk. She nominated the vines for the recent foundation listing, and the bougainvillea was picked from hundreds of entries. Rudnyk said the plant is an icon that is representative of California history. “It was part of the citrus industry,” Rudnyk said. “And now, appropriately, it surrounds a development.” The vines grow along two sides of the Rancho del Bougainvillea, a dense, Spanish-style gated community that was built in the late 1980s. The project was constructed when the Pittmans sold most of their property. Residents of the Rancho pay a yearly fee that goes to maintaining the bougainvillea, but that only totals $3,888, Speaker said. The city would need several thousand dollars more to adequately care for the vines, but the residents have rejected efforts to raise the fee, she said. “A political argument could be made that maybe everybody in Glendora should pay a little bit, but the council would have to decide that,” Speaker said. Mayor Ken Herman said he has asked Rudnyk for a professional recommendation on care of the bougainvillea. He said he supported Rudnyk and increased recognition for the plants. The Chamber of Commerce had considered using the plants as a theme to promote the city, but that plan never went anywhere, he said. As for Rudnyk, she said, “I just want (the bougainvillea) to be around after my time is done on this earth.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2110160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Last month, the vines were named to a list of 21 “Heroes of Horticulture” – plants and trees across the nation that have been witnesses to history and are now considered threatened. The Glendora vines are at risk due to development and lack of upkeep, according to The Cultural Landscape Foundation. The Washington, D.C.,-based group each year issues “Landslide,” a list of landscapes the foundation says may be lost. The group has recommended that Glendora, which maintains the trees with a late winter pruning, develop a different care plan that would better take into account the vines’ age and size. The bougainvillea deserves protection in part because of the plants’ connection to the region’s bygone citrus culture, said Charles Birnbaum, founder and president of Cultural Landscape Foundation. “This part of California has been growing so much that this is one of the only truly living witnesses to a former lifestyle,” Birnbaum said. GLENDORA – The massive, tangled vines along Bennett and Minnesota avenues have witnessed the rise and fall of the San Gabriel Valley’s citrus industry. They have withstood the suburbanization of Glendora and surrounding communities and are now seeing the push toward redevelopment in the Valley. For more than a century, the papery, purple blossoms of the Glendora Bougainvillea have brightened the trunks of 25, 90-foot-tall palm trees as the city has changed around them. Now, a national preservation group is advocating that Glendora take better care of the historic plants, which are the largest collection of bougainvillea in the nation.