Rare Plant Not Seen In Over A Century Found In Vermont
Image via Joshua Morse/Vermont Fish & Wildlife

Rare Plant Not Seen In Over A Century Found In Vermont

Never let it be said that all the wonders in the world have ben discovered. A Vermont botanist has found a rare plant in the state not seen in over a century. It's a tiny floodplain herb.

Grace Glynn said she's been hunting for the false mermaid-weed (Floerkea proserpinacoides) since she started her job. It only took her a year to track down the herb, so let's all give a round applauds to her keen eye. No one has seen the herb since 1916 making the find even that more impressive.

Glynn came across the small herb earlier this year. She noticed that the plant was actually unnoticed in the background of another rare specimen that the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department took. Excited by the discovery, she visited the area and found the plant near a stream. She also located more of the plant downstream.

In a Facebook post, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department celebrated the accomplishment. They wrote, "Since 1916, no botanist has seen false mermaid-weed (Floerkea proserpinacoides) in Vermont... until now! Grace Glynn, our new state botanist, has been on the hunt for this tiny floodplain herb since starting the job about a year ago. Earlier this spring her persistence paid off when Grace recognized a sprig of false mermaid-weed in the background of a photo of another rare plant sent in by colleague Molly Parren. One lightning fast field visit later, Grace had confirmed false mermaid-weed on a private streamside parcel in Addison County! A second visit, and she had located more of the elusive plant on public conservation land just downstream of the original site."

Rare Plant Discovered

The organization also wrote, "As you can see from our photos, individual false mermaid-weed plants are absolutely tiny, with flowers as small as the head of a pin! Making them even harder to find, false mermaid-weed is *both* a spring ephemeral *and* an annual. For the ephemeral part you can think of false mermaid-weed kind of like trout lily or spring beauty. They leaf out and flower early in the spring, and vanish when the canopy fills in. But unlike more familiar ephemerals false mermaid-weed is a floodplain plant. And the canopy it grows under is made up of shoulder-high ostrich ferns. "
If you're wondering why the organization is excited, then it's all to do with conservation. Vermont's floodplains have faced issues from invasive species as well as extreme floods. The organization wrote, "At this point you might be wondering: why all the excitement for such a tiny plant? A big part of it has to do with where it was rediscovered. False mermaid-weed is a floodplain plant, and historic populations are believed to have been destroyed by some common challenges facing Vermont's floodplains. Extreme floods, invasive species, and development. The fact that the newly rediscovered population of false mermaid-weed has been able to persist in good quality habitat. On both private and protected land in Addison County. For over a century is a sign that good stewardship by landowners and conservation organizations really can make a difference."