A recently published report led by a North Carolina botanist outlines plant extinctions in the continental United States and Canada. The findings show that 65 species are presumed extinct, which is more than any previous study had documented.

The work was led by ecologist Wesley Knapp of the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. He says it took about five years to compile the new list.


Photo of Crataegus fecunda – the St. Clair Hawthorn. Known from a single individual at the Morton Arboretum. Photo credit: Matt Lobell of the Morton Arboretum.

“Each extinct plant tells its own story and has its own unique circumstances, and we had to vet each species past experts who knew those groups,” says Knapp.

North Carolina has three on the list all from the western part of the state, but the majority of extinct plants are from the Southwestern part of the U.S.

“One thing we found is that 64 percent of these extinct plants were what we call single-site endemics. They are only known from one place in the landscape,” he says.

And that has implications for future conservation efforts, meaning it will be important to focus on small site conservation and habitat management in addition to larger landscapes.

Knapp says 65 plants is likely an underrepresentation of what's actually gone extinct. Occasionally, plants are rediscovered.  

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