A botanist has rediscovered the riverbank goldenrod in Montgomery County, 112 years after the rare flower was last seen in Maryland, the state’s Department of Natural Resources officials announced Wednesday.
“It was genuinely exciting,” said Wes Knapp, a botanist and ecologist for the agency who found the yellow flowering plant in September. “There may have been some woo-hoos and some high-fives.”
Also known as Solidago rupestris, the riverbank goldenrod is a member of the sunflower family. Knapp said the goldenrod is in Virginia but hasn’t been spotted in Maryland since 1903.
In September 2014, Knapp went to Great Falls Park in Virginia to see it in its natural habitat.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words,” he said, “And seeing the plant in the field is worth a thousand pictures.”
With that visual engraved in his mind, he set off to find the riverbank goldenrod in Maryland. It took nearly a year before he laid eyes on it again.
Knapp and some colleagues started their search along Olmstead and Bear islands in Maryland’s portion of Great Falls Park. They left empty-handed.
It was on a second outing last September that he saw them.
“I knew the habitat and where to look and when to look,” Knapp said.
He said there’s a small patch of about 50 goldenrods near Carderock, just west of Bethesda. And Knapp thinks the flower could have been there all along, or taken root after seeds traveled via wind or rain to Maryland.
The flowering plant, which is very rare on the east coast, is found along river edges scoured by floods.
“It wasn’t a guarantee we would find it,” added Knapp, who said an expert later verified that the yellow plant was the goldenrod. “But I’m really happy we did.”