Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 25, 2020


Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Newly Discovered Wetland Flower in North Carolina Already Extinct

Protection Needed for Imperiled Species Throughout Region

NORTH CAROLINA Scientists in North Carolina have determined that a species of riverbank wildflower conservationists have fought to protect since 2010 is actually two separate species and the “new” flower has been extinct for a century. This marks the 53rd plant known to be lost to extinction in the United States and Canada.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 to protect Appalachian Barbara’s buttons, a member of the daisy family, under the Endangered Species Act. In 2011 the Service determined that protection may be warranted but has not moved forward in enacting protection. Earlier this month scientists examining museum specimens of the flower determined it’s actually two different species, one of which was last seen in 1919.

“It’s sobering that Appalachian Barbara’s buttons is the fifth southeastern species conservationists have tried to get endangered protection for that’s been declared extinct in the past decade,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “Many more plants and animals will be lost soon if we don’t prioritize protecting rare species and wild places.”

The name Appalachian Barbara’s buttons now refers to the lost species, which was found only in western North Carolina in Henderson and Polk counties. The surviving species in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Pennsylvania has been renamed “Beautiful Barbara’s buttons” and is under review for federal protection.

The flower grows only along stream banks that are periodically scoured by high flows including the Big South Fork, Casselman, Cumberland, Obed, Tygart and Youghiogheny rivers. These riverside communities are threatened by dams, development, trampling by recreationists, and invasive plants.

Scientists estimate that there are around 435,000 species of land plants, 37% of which are exceedingly rare. Globally at least 600 plant species are known to have been lost to extinction since 1900. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that 41% of plants that have been assessed are threatened.

More than 220 freshwater species from the southeastern United States are under consideration for Endangered Species Act protection, including 55 plants.

“Plants and animals that depend on freshwater habitats are at heightened risk of extinction and should be high up on the list for getting protection if we want to keep the planet livable for future generations of wildlife and humans,” said Curry.

The surviving species, Beautiful Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia pulchra). Photo courtesy of John Burkhart. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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