Words by Tess Becker
We’re amid the sixth mass extinction spurned on by climate change, habitat destruction, and human intervention. So it's hugely positive news to hear that a species has survived contrary to previous assumptions. Such is the case for an oak tree in the heart of Texas.
A decade ago, the Quercus Tardifolia oak tree was declared extinct. But last year a pair of them were found in the West Texas mountains.
Michael Eason, a scientist with the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Rare Plants and Conservation program, was the one to find them.
“It was presumed extinct for just over a decade, and we don't really know what happened with the known one plant that was located up in Big Bend National Park and in the Chisos Mountains there in Boot Canyon. Somehow, sometime around 2011, it just disappeared,” he explained.
The tree is remarkable for being a late bloomer, producing and changing its leaves much later in the season. It got its name, 'Tardifolia', from that fact that it’s always “tardy.”
“This species is one of those sort of relic species of millennia ago, whenever the climate here was much wetter and cooler. And so the only places it can really survive out here in West Texas is higher elevations, where it is wetter and cooler,” Eason said.
The plan now is to sweep over the valley, when other trees have already lost their leaves making Tardifolia stand out.
Conservationists will plant the trees at the San Antonio Botanical Garden and ship others to botanical gardens from coast-to-coast to be planted on their grounds. They aim to prevent this species from disappearing from the face of the earth altogether, even if they cannot survive in their heating habitat of the Chisos Mountains in Texas.
“It's one of those rare success stories in conservation and being part of that, especially here in Texas, being part of that, it's pretty remarkable,” Eason said.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida. This organization helps support the fauna throughout the Florida ocean and nature. Find out more and support them here.
Florida Bicycle Association. An organization that helps mobilize people and promote greener living and safer biking. Find out more.
Collective Sun. They help nonprofits get outfitted with solar power capabilities. Check them out here.