Wildflower Gasteranthus Extinctus Rediscovered in Western Ecuador

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Wildflower
Courtesy of Celestyn Brozek (Flickr CC0)

A wildflower named Gasteranthus extinctus was discovered in South Africa and believed to be extinct for 36 years. Dawson White, a co-lead author of the research paper and a postdoctoral researcher at Chicago’s Field Museum, said:

Extinctus was given its striking name in light of the extensive deforestation in western Ecuador, but ut if you claim something’s gone, then no one is really going to go out and look for it anymore. There are still a lot of important species that are still out there, even though overall, we’re in this age of extinction.

The wildflower gained its title because scientists did not see a future for this flower because of deforestation. It was last seen in 1985.

Scientists working in the foothill of the Andes mountain in Ecuador in 2000 tried and failed to uncover a smallish, bright orange wildflower found 15 years prior.

A team of researchers chose to take another glimpse in Western Ecuador in 2022 to search if the species lives there.

After the rediscovery of the wildflower 22 years later, Riley Fortier checked the iNaturalist app and found photos of this wildflower posted by Ecuadorian students in 2019 indulging in a small conversation on their outing trip a little north. The students took a couple of pictures of Gasteranthus extinctus but could not identify these. White’s team tracked these students down to include their observations in the scientific paper.

Wildflower
Courtesy of Sonja McAllister (Flickr CC0)

Within days, the wildflower was seen in blazing blooms once again. However, the plant is still facing extinction. While they were looking for this wildflower, researchers found more plant species that were new to science which is all the more reason to help save this unique cloud forest.

The researchers gathered samples to confirm the wildflower’s DNA sprinkled in clumps in the small sections of the remaining forest.

iNaturalist is a collaborative endeavor of the National Geographic Society and the California Academy of Sciences. The network is a biodiversity observation system for people to post plants, birds photos, and other explorations to help with the discovery.

Wildflower Gasteranthus extinctus is a member of the African Violet family. Many people have Violets from Africa, but very few propagate this plant for ornamental purposes.

Even with the cloud forest devastation, the destruction of the forest continues for the Ecuadorian government’s gain.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Ecuadorian government redistributed the land to the working class. Still, people started to cut down trees to allow bananas and cacao beans to be exported to the United States. White said in a press conference:

We were with local landowners, and they told us about their plans to continue to cut down some of these small forests that still remain.

White’s goal is to save the cloud forest environment and resume its list of newly uncovered species.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

CNN: A blazing orange wildflower thought to be extinct for 36 years was rediscovered; by Megan Marples
ABC 17 News: A fireball that crashed to Earth came from outside of our solar system; by John Minchillo & Fiona
CBS News: This fiery orange wildflower was thought to be extinct. 36 years later, scientists found it again; by Alexandra Larkin

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Celestyn Brozek’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Sonja McAllister’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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