Loran M. Whitelock (April 21, 1930 - May 27, 2014) was an American botanist who specialized in Cycads, a prehistoric plant that once dominated the planet and is now somewhat rare and endangered. He was known as a plant collector, plant curator, nursery owner, author, and conservationist. He was instrumental in promoting cycads as a garden feature in Southern California through his nursery and other contributions. Several plants were named in his honor including Encephalartos whitelockii and Ceratozamia whitelockiana.
He created, owned, managed, curated for, and grew plants for Cycad Gardens. Cycad Gardens is a botanical garden and nursery located on about an acre of land in back of his home in Eagle Rock, CA. It contains one of the most extensive collections of Cycads in the world, and is noted for its importance to conservation efforts. It was described by the Los Angeles Times as “monumental and weird… walking through it is like traveling back in time to Jurassic days”.
Education and career
Whitelock earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology, studying in botany, zoology, and microbiology. He worked for the Los Angeles City and County Health Departments then became a landscape designer in Los Angeles.
Expeditions and conservationism
Whitelock was known for his extensive travels to remote locations in search of cycads, and for his conservation efforts, described by the Los Angeles Times as “a local legend”. Whitelock was a frequent commentator on theft of valuable rare and endangered plants from the wild, and of very valuable specimens from private collections. 1,500 of Whitelock's cycads were donated to the nearby Huntington Botanical Gardens after his death, forming one of the largest collections of cycads in the world.
- "In memory of Loran Whitelock". Arizona Cycad. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- The Cone Heads, New York Times, 8-17-2003
- A Jurassic Park of their Own; Ancient cycads attract a subculture of collectors devoted to the quirky plants, Jeff Spurrier, Los Angeles Times, 3-22-2007, 
- The Plants that Time Forgot, Susan Heeger, , Los Angeles Times Magazine, 4-11-1993, 
- Coffee Grower Found Cycad in Rain Forest, Miami Herald, 1-13-2008
- Slow Growing Cycad requires little care, Miami Herald, 9-12-2004
- Loran M. Whitelock, Timber Press Author Profile
- Crooks, Collectors, Preying on a Plant, Miami Herald, 11-23-2004
- Smugglers of Rare Plants Weeded Out, San Diego Union Tribune, 8-20-2001
- Mystery of the Missing Cycads Disclosed, Miami Herald, 9-10-2002
- ""A Passion for Cycads"". Huntington Frontiers. Retrieved 9 March 2020.