A recent study completed by biologists from around the world, including scientists from the United States and Great Britain, has concluded that 22% – over 1 in 5 of plant species are endangered.
While those numbers are daunting, it was wonderful to read the news that the Maguire Daisy, formerly threatened by mineral exploration and other human disruption, has recovered, and was de-listed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species list earlier this month. Most often, plants end up on the Endangered Species list as a result of disruption, most commonly in the form of habitat loss due to human activity.
To celebrate, here are four plants saved from the brink of extinction.
Maguire Daisy (Erigeron maguirei)
Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Clinging to rocky mountainsides, growing in the cracks of boulders, and thriving at elevations as high as nearly 9,000 feet, the Maguire daisy is no wimp of a plant. But even it couldn’t withstand the devastating effects of mineral exploration, off-road vehicles, and development. By the time this perennial herb was officially listed as Endangered in 1985, there were only a handful of the plants left, most of them in Utah. Eleven years later, in 1996, botanists found over 100,000 more Maguire daisy plants after realizing that a plant that had previously been classified as a different species was actually the same plant. By 2010, conservation efforts had succeeded to the point that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service de-listed the Maguire daisy. It is still classified as a rare plant, and will receive additional protection under a multi-year conservation plan.
Eggert’s Sunflower (Helianthus eggertii)
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Eggert’s sunflower is found only in the states of Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In 1997, when it was officially listed as Endangered, there were only 34 known sites in which this perennial sunflower could be found. The plants grows and spreads via fleshy rhizomes as well as seeds (though seed germination is very low less than 25%). The rhizomatous root system should have been enough to keep this plant thriving, but development, roadside maintenance, and weedy invasives all played a part in its dwindling populations. By 2005, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put measures in place to protect it, the Eggert’s sunflower began to thrive, showing its keen ability to bounce back once given a little space and protection. It was officially de-listed in 2007.
Robbins’ Cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana)
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The diminutive yet beautiful Robbins’ cinquefoil grows only in the White Mountains in Vermont. In fact, 95% of the entire population of the Robbins cinquefoil live within a one-acrea area. This perennial flower thrives in dry, rocky soil, and was first discovered in the early 1800′s when a hiking path was constructed through its native habitat. Recognizing the plant as rare, plant collectors started removing it to add to their private collections as well as to sell to other collectors. By the 1970s, the increase in hiking traffic had nearly sent the Robbins cinquefoil into extinction. It was added to the Endangered Species list in 1980, and, at the time, there were only 3,700 of the plants left in existence. Hiking paths were closed and relocated, and the New England Wild Flower Society assisted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by growing new cinquefoils from seeds collected from the existing plants. In 2002, it was declared recovered and removed from the endangered species list. There are now 14,000 of the plants gracing the slopes of the White Mountains.
Hoover’s Woolly-Star (Eriastrum hooverii)
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The pale blue, annual flowers of Hoover’s Woolly-Star grace the natural landscape of southern California. Growing in sandy or silty soils, it was listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1990, when human disturbance and habitat loss reduced the plant to sparse populations at only 19 sites in its native habitat. Due to protection under the Endangered Species Act, the discovery of additional colonies on federally-protected land, and the success of establishing additional populations by biologists, the Woolly-Star was de-listed in 2003.