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Researchers surprised after chance discovery of plant not seen in over a century: 'It's a glimmer of hope'

"There was a lot of screaming."

"There was a lot of screaming."

Photo Credit: Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife

Researchers in Vermont found a hidden treasure of a plant not seen in over a century.

According to the New York Times, the rare false mermaid-weed (Floerkea proserpinacoides), was thought to be extinct in the region until this remarkable discovery.

Biologist Molly Parren stumbled upon this botanical rarity while surveying wood turtle habitats in rural Addison County. Amid the wild meadow garlic by a stream, she snapped a photograph, which she promptly shared with Vermont's state botanist, Grace Glynn. However, it wasn't the garlic that captivated Glynn but another plant in the frame — the long-lost false mermaid-weed, unseen in Vermont for generations.

The significance of the find struck Glynn immediately. She reached out to Parren and, in an eruption of excitement, contacted Matt Charpentier, a Massachusetts-based field botanist also on the trail of this elusive species. 

"There was a lot of screaming," Glynn admitted upon the discovery. The following day, she rushed to the site to find a dense carpet of the plants, marveling at their overlooked resilience.

False mermaid-weed, which appears in late April and flowers for about a month before retreating by early June, is known for its delicate features and small, centimeter-wide flowers, making it easy to miss. 

"It's a glimmer of hope in an otherwise grim world," Charpentier said, according to the New York Times. 

The discovery underscores the significance of preserving natural habitats and the benefits of biodiversity. 

Another example is the successful reintroduction of bison on tribal lands in Montana. Starting with 30 wild bison relocated to the Fort Belknap Reservation in 2013, the population has flourished to about 200, rejuvenating local ecosystems and supporting endangered species such as the black-footed ferret and swift fox. 

Similarly, Mono Lake in California has rebounded following decades of water diversion, with a remarkable 80% reduction in diversions since 1994. This restoration has revitalized the lake into a thriving ecosystem, now home to trillions of shrimp and millions of birds, serving as a global testament to effective ecological preservation efforts.

Glynn plans to send some Floerkea seeds to a seed bank in Massachusetts, ensuring the plant's preservation for future generations. With ongoing support and awareness, the world can hope to see more stories of ecological resurgence in the future.

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