Wildflower once thought extinct found thriving in Antioch

A critically endangered wildflower thought to be on the brink of extinction has been found thriving on a mountain in Antioch by two renowned botanists earlier this year, according to the East Bay Regional Park District.

Originally thought to be extinct for 69 years, Mount Diablo Buckwheat was rediscovered in 2005 by UC Berkeley graduate student Michael Park at Mount Diablo State Park.

Park officials said the rediscovery sparked a tremendous amount of public attention as there were only 20 of the wildflowers growing at that single spot in the entire world.

Efforts to increase the population at Mt. Diablo were challenging, but proved somewhat successful even during repeat drought years, according to park officials.

Habitat was mapped and explored over the next decade but no additional plants were found and the Mount Diablo Buckwheat faced extinction with just 100 to 200 plants growing.

In May 2016, botanists Heath Bartosh and Brian Peterson of Nomad Ecology were conducting botanical surveys in the East Bay Regional Park District’s Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, when they came across a large area of the wildflower.

Unlike the former location with just a few plants, this new location had approximately 1.8 million, growing in two patches around a half-acre.

Bartosh said in a statement:

“I’m so thrilled to share this news, it’s the find of a career.”

The rediscovery of this plant has been considered the “holy grail” of discoveries for East Bay botanists and the locations of the wildflower are being kept secret to protect the endangered plants, according to experts.

Holly Forbes, Curator and Conservation Officer at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley said in a statement:

“The Antioch population is a great discovery. Its habitat is quite different from the 2005 rediscovery site, and provides valuable information for efforts to develop new populations.”

Additionally, Forbes collected the wildflower’s seeds from Mount Diablo and the new discovery site to keep in a seed bank in an effort to protect the plant from natural disaster.

According to park officials, prior to its rediscovery in 2005 little had been known the Mount Diablo buckwheat.

Since then, Eastern Contra Costa has become a nationally recognized biodiversity hotspot for rare species, where thousands of acres have been preserved including the Black Diamond Mines, the new Deer Valley Regional Preserve, and Marsh Creek State Park.

Park officials said the area is still threatened however by rapid developments and thousands of homes proposed in Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood.