, the Mount Diablo buckwheat
, is a small pink wildflower
A wildflower is a flower that grows wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted. Yet "wildflower" meadows of a few mixed species are sold in seed packets. The term "wildflower" has been made vague by commercial seedsmen who are interested in selling more flowers or seeds more...
, believed to have been extinct since 1936 until its rediscovery in 2005. The species is only known to live on Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County, northern California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...
It has been found on the edge of chaparral
Chaparral is a shrubland or heathland plant community found primarily in the U.S. state of California and in the northern portion of the Baja California peninsula, Mexico...
but may be a refugee there, squeezed out of more open areas by exotics. Since its rediscovery seeds have been collected for controlled propagation and preservation.
Mt. Diablo buckwheat is an annual plant
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. True annuals will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed...
growing between 150 millimetre high. It blooms with several dozen pinkish flowers, having a maroon line down the center of each petal. The flower stalks branch upward in a wishbone pattern, with flowers blooming at the joint and ends of the wishbone.
The first recorded sighting of Mt. Diablo buckwheat was by William H. Brewer, the first Chair of Agriculture at the Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...
Sheffield Scientific School
Sheffield Scientific School was founded in 1847 as a school of Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut for instruction in science and engineering. Originally named the Yale Scientific School, it was renamed in 1861 in honor of Joseph E. Sheffield, the railroad executive. The school was...
. He was Principal Assistant for botany on the Josiah Whitney-led California Geological Survey from 1860-1864. Brewer first recorded the Mt. Diablo buckwheat at John Marsh
“Doctor” John Marsh was born in 1799 in South Danvers, Massachusetts and died in Pacheco, California in 1856. He was an early pioneer and settler in California, and although he did not have a medical degree, is often regarded as the first person to practice medicine in California.-Early life:Marsh...
's Rancho Los Meganos
Rancho Los Meganos was a Mexican land grant in present day Contra Costa County, California given in 1835 by Governor José Castro to Jose Noriega. "Meganos" means "sand dunes" in Spanish. Rancho Los Meganos extends eastward from present day Antioch along the San Joaquin River to the Old River...
at the northeast corner of Mt. Diablo, on May 29, 1862. Marsh was the first American settler in Contra Costa County (the present-day San Francisco East Bay) and a proponent of increased American emigration. Approximately 4,000 acres (16 km²) of the Marsh Ranch have been preserved around Marsh's stone house in the new Cowell Ranch State Park. From 1862-1936 the Mount Diablo buckwheat was found just a handful of times, for a total of seven historic records.
In 1936 Mary Leolin Bowerman
Dr. Mary Leolin Bowerman was a botanist and author of The Flowering Plants and Ferns of Mount Diablo, California; Their Distribution and Association into Plant Communities, and co-founder of "Save Mount Diablo" helped to preserve tens of thousands of acres of Mount Diablo in the San Francisco East...
, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley and who later co-founded the Save Mount Diablo organization in 1971, recorded the last sighting of Mt. Diablo buckwheat. Bowerman made two of the seven historic records, on opposite sides of Mt. Diablo, Contra Costa County, California during her floristic study between 1930 and 1936. Her 1936 Ph.D. was followed in 1944 by publication of The Flowering Plants and Ferns of Mt. Diablo, California. Much of Mt. Diablo has been preserved in the years since Bowerman's study was completed, as well as areas where other buckwheat records were established however the eastern areas of the plant's range are threatened by development pressure.
Until 2005 numerous botanical survey trips were unsuccessful in locating the buckwheat.
On May 10, 2005 Michael Park, a University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...
graduate student, was conducting a floristic study on Mt. Diablo. While more thoroughly searching promising areas on the mountain that hadn't gotten enough attention he realized he was surrounded by early blooming buckwheat. Once he realized that it was Mount Diablo buckwheat he was so shocked that: "I pretended it wasn't there and continued with my other work."
A week after the rediscovery, a collaboration of organizations including the California Department of Parks & Recreation, Save Mount Diablo, and the University of California at Berkeley announced the rediscovery of the Mt. Diablo buckwheat. Coming soon after the announcement of the potential rediscovery of the Ivory-billed woodpecker
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is or was one of the largest woodpeckers in the world, at roughly 20 inches in length and 30 inches in wingspan. It was native to the virgin forests of the southeastern United States...
, the news traveled around the world in just a few days and appeared in thousands of media outlets including print, radio and television.
Seeds were collected from wild plants in 2005. On June 7, 2006, members of the Mt. Diablo Buckwheat Working Group announced that the plant had survived and increased in the wild and that twelve plants had been propagated at the U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Seeds were again collected in the wild and from propagated plants in 2006 and 2007. 2006 seed yield from propagated plants included more than 40,000 seeds. 2007 seed yield from propagated plants included more than 145,000 seeds.
The plant, an annual wildflower which dies after flowering and which is found at just one site, is still considered critically threatened. In December 2007 the Working Group seeded additional plots near the wild site.