A rare wildflower found in only five places in the country -- including Maryland -- stands a good chance of placement on the national endangered species list, a researcher says.
The Sandplain Gerardia, related to the snapdragon and once believed to be extinct, was accidentally rediscovered in Massachusetts in 1980, almost four decades after researchers had last spotted it.
Bruce Sorrie, a botanist with the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program, said last week that he found the pink-flowered plant in an old cemetery on Cape Cod while searching for other rare flowers.
"We first found them in one colony and then the following year we found a second colony," said Sorrie. "There had been no reports of the plant since about 1944. I was looking for other species."
Since the Cape Cod discovery, the plant has been found in two places on Long Island and in one area in Maryland. Federal and local wildlife officials said they have received cooperation from landowners at each site to protect the sites.
To protect the plants, Sorrie did not identify the areas.
"We are only talking a couple of thousand plants or so," said Sorrie. When you think about it, it is a very few."
The New York site contains the largest number of flowers. The total number of the plants known to exist could fit on one acre of land, he said.
The botanist said the slender plant can grow to up to six inches in length and has a dark, bell-shaped, pink flower. It grows in a dry, grassy, treeless environment.
In 1984, after a search for other Sandplain Gerardia sites was unsuccessful, researchers asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to include the plant on the endangered species list.
Sorrie said the Sandplain Gerardia is all but assured a spot on the list. "It's going to be several months yet," he said. "Now, it is primarily a matter of procedure."
Sorrie said that the plant once grew in most counties south of Boston and that scientists are still trying to figure out why it had almost disappeared.
"It is hard to put a finger on it," Sorrie said. He said possible reasons include the encroachment of forests, a lack of grassy open space, and development.