Wednesday, May 25, 2005

ENV: Mount Diablo Buckwheat

Mount Diablo Buckwheat, Eriogonum truncatum
Photo by Scott J. Hein

‘Extinct’ wildflower found in California
Scientists spot it for the first time in 69 years
The Associated Press, Updated: 9:14 p.m. ET May 25, 2005


SAN FRANCISCO - A flower long thought to be extinct was rediscovered in a California state park — more than six decades after it was last seen, scientists said Wednesday.

The pink wildflower Eriogonom truncatum, known as the Mount Diablo buckwheat, was found in a remote section of a Contra Costa County park about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of San Francisco. The plant resembles baby's breath used in floral arrangements.

The last reported sighting of the flower was in 1936, according to the University of California at Berkeley.

"We've been calling the Mount Diablo buckwheat the holy grail for botanists (in the region)," said Barbara Ertter, curator of western North American flora at Berkeley's Jepson Herbarium.

The find drew comparisons to the recent discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas.

Sometimes called the "Lord God" bird because of the exclamation many people are said to utter upon seeing it, the large woodpecker was thought to have been extinct for decades before a kayaker found one in February 2004.

"These stories resonate with people because they show we can set back the clock and do it right," said Seth Adams, director of land programs for Save Mount Diablo.

The wildflower was discovered by a Berkeley graduate student pursuing a doctorate in integrative biology. "Once I realized that it was the Mount Diablo buckwheat I was in shock, so I pretended it wasn't there and continued with my other work," said Michael Park, 35.

The location is being kept secret, but the dozen-plus plants were found on a property preserved by the conservation group Save Mount Diablo.

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