Rare Flower Thought Extinct In Vermont, Rediscovered

Jul 28, 2017

A flowering plant thought to be extinct in Vermont has been rediscovered.

Winged loosestrife is a native plant related to the non-native invasive purple loosestrife.

It’s been considered extinct because it hasn’t been seen in Vermont since 1979.

Everett Marshall, a botanist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife was hiking with his wife, Deb Parrella, also a botanist, when she spotted the plant.

The two were exploring the Raven Ridge Natural Area in Monkton, which is owned by the Nature Conservancy.

Marshall says the plant was clearly loosestrife, but not the invasive variety.

“I realized that it was different, but I wasn’t familiar with the species,” he says.

After researching their find, they were able to identify it.  

Winged loosestrife (right) is smaller and more delicate than the more robust invasive purple loosestrife (left).
Credit Courtesy: Vt. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

The couple spotted the plant while using a boardwalk constructed in a wet meadow area. Marshall says the boardwalk was built just last year, making the location of the plants more accessible than in the past.  

He says winged loosetrife has never been common in Vermont. Before 1979, there are only eight records of the plant, dating back to the 1800s.

There’s evidence, however, that winged loosestrife has long been growing in the area where Marshall and Parella found it.  

“Our most famous botanist in Vermont, Cyrus Pringle, first collected the plant in Charlotte and this wet meadow is on the Monkton-Charlotte town line. So it’s likely that he actually collected it on the same site 132 years ago,” he says.

Marshall says he observed bumblebees and other insects collecting nectar from the plant, which has numerous flowering stems. 

“It really adds to the diversity of our state. In this case it not only has a function in the ecosystem, but it’s also a real beautiful plant, ” he says.

Marshall says its likely winged loosestrife grows in other Vermont locations.

The plant, which is smaller than purple loosestrife, prefers wet, undisturbed meadows.

Marshall  oversees Vermont’s Natural Heritage Inventory database, which catalogs rare and endangered plants and animals and significant natural communities.