and feathery creatures get headlines. Do plants need help?
As the public focuses on showy creatures like the California condor and the gray wolf, a silent wave of plant extinction sweeps the planet. A study by the Nature Conservancy, found that "about one-third of U.S. plants and animals are of conservation concern" -- in some danger of being eliminated from at least part of their ranges.
The report said "Plants...receive low marks overall, with many of our most beautiful wildflowers in peril. ... A startling 5,121 flowering plant species are at risk, fully one-third of their total number."
The threat to plants
Another indication of the rate of plant extirpation -- local extinction -- came from a recent study of Middlesex Fells, a 1,000-acre park north of Boston. Expert botanists surveyed the park in 1894 and found 422 plant species. Less than 100 years later, after a century of protection, only 300 of those species remained (see "Plant Census ..." in the bibliography).
The disappearances were blamed on:
Since the disappearance of 122 plant species equaled "only" a bit more than 1 species per year, only a careful study could reveal the extirpations.
On the brighter side, amateur and professional botanists in New York State have rediscovered 61 rare plants that had not been seen in the state for at least 15 years. The "Lazarus" species included nine grasses, 13 sedges, seven aquatic plants, and 32 wildflowers (including two orchids). The average time since the previous sighting was 46 years.
Can they reintroduce plants to the wild?
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