From the Center for Biological Diversity:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that an endangered flower in Maine is recovering under the Endangered Species Act and has been downlisted to threatened status.

Furbish’s lousewort is a nearly 3-foot-tall, yellow flower with fern-like leaves that grows only on the banks of the St. John River in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. It was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1978 due primarily to a proposed hydropower dam that would have wiped out its habitat. There are now 20 subpopulations along a 140-mile section of the river, and it was proposed for reclassification from endangered to threatened status in 2021.

“As we fight the escalating extinction crisis, it’s important to celebrate conservation successes for all the little species that make up life on Earth,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act has saved 99% percent of the plants and animals under its care, from grizzlies and whales to obscure plants with unfortunate names like Furbish’s lousewort.”

Protection as a threatened species is still required because most of the flower’s range is still vulnerable to threats from development for housing, agriculture, pollution and climate change. Warming winters and more severe flood events are changing the moderate ice scour that maintains the riverbank conditions the flower needs to thrive. The flower grows only in damp shaded areas of riverbank that are neither too wet nor too sunny.

State protections are now in place for municipal shoreline zoning and several protected areas have been established for the plant. Efforts are also underway to restore degraded areas of riparian forest. In Canada the plant is protected under the Species At Risk Act and New Brunswick’s Endangered Species Act.

Furbish’s lousewort doesn’t flower until it’s three years old. The plants obtain nutrients through their roots by parasitizing other plants. The flowers have only one pollinator — half-black bumblebees, who only forage around half a mile from their nests.

“We share the planet with more than 8 million fascinating species, and their survival is now in our hands,” said Curry. “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, so it’s the perfect time to commit to halting extinction. We have to take bold action to keep the climate livable and protect wildlife and wild places.”

Furbish’s lousewort is named after artist and botanist Catherine Furbish, who spent six decades classifying and depicting the flora of Maine.

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