Every year, scientists discover new species of plants and animals and record extinct species. Occasionally, biologists rediscover a species that was considered extinct. This case happened in the Ecuadorian cloud forest, where locals came across the wildflower Gasteranthus extinctus, classified extinct.

The “extinct” Plant Has Not Really Become Extinct for 40 Years

The last time wildflower Gasteranthus extinctus was recorded 40 years ago in the South American rainforest. The researchers estimated that the rainforest plant became extinct due to felling in the late 20th century. More than 97% of the forests in the western half of Ecuador have been destroyed or converted to agricultural land.

Photo by Riley Fortier

The plant, classified as extinct, was rediscovered in Ecuador. Biologists have marked the site – Centinela at the foot of the Andes. The researchers began by searching satellite images of intact parts of the foggy forest. And they were successful. After four decades, they rediscovered the rare plant.

The Rainforest’s Rare Plants Deserve Protection

The still existing tropical plant named Gasteranthus extinctus is characterized by its bright orange flowers and specific lower sac, accessible to pollinators. The researchers used only pictures of dried plants from herbariums, line drawings, and a written description to identify the plants. The plants were then carefully photographed, and collected several fallen samples.

Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GasteranthusExtinctus.jpg#/media/File:GasteranthusExtinctus.jpg

“Centinela is a mythical place for tropical botanists,” said Nigel CA Pitman, one of the researchers. “No one went back to confirm that the forest was gone and those things were extinct. “

“We walked into Centinela thinking it was going to break our heart, and instead we ended up falling in love.” The rediscovery of an extremely rare plant shows that it makes sense to invest time and money in researching the realm of fauna and flora. However, despite its rediscovery, Gasteranthus extinctus retains its name.

Source and credit: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/15/wildflower-extinct-ecuador-gasteranthus-extinctus-deforestation,
Photo credit: Riley Fortier, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/192586-Gasteranthus-extinctus