MONKTON, Vt. – A Vermont Fish & Wildlife department botanist and his wife were out for a weekend hike at Raven Ridge Natural Area in Monkton recently when they discovered a flowering plant that has not been seen in Vermont in decades and was thought to be extirpated, or locally extinct. Everett Marshall was hiking with his wife, Deb Parrella, when she noticed the small purple flowers of winged loosestrife (Lythrum alatum) while crossing a boardwalk through a wet meadow. Parrella is also a trained botanist.
The native winged loosestrife is closely related to purple loosestrife, which is native to Europe and Asia and is invasive in Vermont. A small number of winged loosestrife plants were last observed by a botanist in Middlebury in 1979. Prior to that there were only eight records of the plant in the state, the most recent occurring in 1933.
“Deb noticed a plant that was clearly a loosestrife, but I didn’t think we had the native winged loosestrife in Vermont so we had to go home and use a guidebook to confirm the identification,” said Marshall. “It’s exciting to see this plant once again recorded in Vermont, and demonstrates why we’re continually working alongside our partners and members of the public to document the diversity of species in the state.”
Marshall’s job with the Fish & Wildlife department is to maintain the state’s Natural Heritage Inventory, which keeps track of all the known locations of Vermont’s rare, threatened, or endangered species and significant natural communities.
After the sighting, Marshall returned with biologist Dan Farrell from The Nature Conservancy in Vermont to document the extent of the plant’s robust population for the Inventory.
Raven Ridge Natural Area is a diverse, 365-acre property that is owned by The Nature Conservancy. It is known for housing federally-endangered Indiana bats, along with bobcats and ravens, which thrive in the ridge’s rocky outcroppings. The plant was found in a wet, marshy meadow that was previously wet pastureland.
“We are thrilled that Everett and Deb found this plant,” said Rose Paul of The Nature Conservancy. “This highlights the importance of conserving land for biodiversity, and also the value of many people accessing our natural areas throughout the year. You never know what the next exciting discovery might be!”