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A once thought extinct oak tree has been found

Words by Smiley Team

Photo credit: United States Botanic Garden

As extreme weather events become more common and the world becomes warmer, animals and plants are becoming affected just as much (if not more) than humans. 

With that in mind, it’s always uplifting when we find creatures that have otherwise been thought to be extinct like the Quercus tardifolia, known as one of the rarest oak trees in the world. 

The tree, last seen in 2011, was found in Big Bend National Park in Texas, where a group of 10 researchers from The Morton Arboretum in Illinois and United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. The 30-foot tree was described as being in “poor condition.” With its trunk scarred by fire and showing signs of severe fungal infection, scientists deemed it in “immediate need of conservation.”

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“This work is crucial to preserve the biodiversity that Earth is so quickly losing,” said Murphy Westwood, Ph.D., vice president of science and conservation at The Morton Arboretum. “If we ignore the decline of Q. tardifolia and other rare, endangered trees, we could see countless domino effects with the loss of other living entities in the ecosystems supported by those trees.”

The team that found the tree is currently working with the National Park Service to reduce an immediate threat to the tree, primarily wildfires.

Meanwhile, conservationists are planning a return trip to the tree to search for acorns for propagation while exploring other means to propagate the tree including grafting.

“In many ways, this tree is an ancient relic. Due to the changing climate, the world is completely different now than when it evolved,” Wesley Knapp, chief botanist at NatureServe, who participated in the expedition, said in a statement.

“It is incumbent upon us to learn from it and protect it while we still can in order to inform future conservation efforts. Nature rarely hands us a second chance, and I doubt we'll get a third. We won't waste it.”

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: If you like what The Morton Arboretum is doing you can donate to help support them. 

SUPPORT: The Morton Arboretum released a profile on the oak listed here. Read up on it and then other trees and explore how you can support them.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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