Washington, April 29 : Scientists have announced the discovery of two blooming woodland plants in Australia, which were long thought to be extinct.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the two plants are Teucrium ajugaceum and Rhaphidospora cavernarum.
T. ajugaceum, a pink-flowered mint that lives in eucalypt woodlands, had not been seen since 1891 and was listed as extinct in 1992. Rhaphidospora cavernarum, not seen since 1873, also frequents eucalypt forests. Though it grows to almost 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and boasts white and purple flowers, the plant had somehow evaded surveyors until now.
The discoveries in Queensland's Cape York Peninsula were revealed in a Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (QEPA) report released earlier this month.
T. ajugaceum was spotted near the town of Musgrave in 2004 by QEPA staff who were investigating the impacts of road construction.
According to the agency's biodiversity planning officer Bruce Wannan, the rediscovered plant has an "ingenious adaption" for dealing with bushfires. "It has a large underground tuber, to which it dies down each year at the start of the dry season," he added.
"Then it resprouts at the beginning of each wet season. That seems to be a good mechanism for avoiding the worst impacts of fires," he added.
Even so, the mint has been reclassified as "vulnerable" on account of its limited range.
But, scientists know little about the ecology of the herb R. cavernarum.
"We only know it from a few scattered locations, so we don't have a precise idea of what its range or habitat requirements are," said Gordon Guymer, director of the QEPA's Queensland Herbarium.
R. cavernarum faces competition from exotic weeds, cattle grazing, and bushfires.
But cultivating specimens in greenhouses would be a last resort, especially since breeding can be difficult, according to Guymer.
"The first thing to do is to monitor these populations, identify any threats, and see whether we can manage or control those threats," said Guymer. "Our preference is for in situ management," he added.