Plant detectives uncover rare plant that hasn't been seen in 40 years

Wisconsin DNR
English sundew (Drosera anglica) was relocated in Ashland County for the first time in over 40 years.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The state Department of Natural Resources says volunteers have discovered a rare carnivorous plant in northern Wisconsin that was last seen four decades ago but failed to find any trace of scores of previously documented rare plants in the state. 

The department dispatched 60 volunteers with its Rare Plant Monitoring Program around Wisconsin last year to check on the health and size of rare plant populations. They uncovered English sundew, an insect-eating plant, in Ashland County for the first time in 40 years. 

But they didn't find 63 previously documented plant populations. DNR officials said some of those populations may have disappeared temporarily since water levels on many lakes around the state are at their highest level in decades and may have submerged the vegetation. Other species may have simply vanished as part of a global trend in biodiversity loss.

The department said it has been working to reverse those trends with projects that include growing plants in nurseries to reintroduce to the wild and storing seeds from some of the state's rarest plants. 

Wisconsin has 2,366 native plant species, with 344, or 14.5%, considered rare.