By TOM JACKSON
For The Courier
SANDUSKY — Four lost plants believed to have been gone from Ohio for decades were rediscovered during 2019, an extraordinary run of good luck for state botanists.
One was found in Lorain County, not far from Sandusky.
“Finding even one such species in any given year is impressive, but finding four is almost unheard of,” said Rick Gardner, chief botanist for the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Here are the four plants:
• Vasey’s pondweed (Potamogeton vaseyi), last seen in Ohio in 1935, discovered at Carlisle Reservation MetroPark in Lorain County in May.
• The black-stemmed spleenwort (Asplenium resiliens), missing since 1900, found in Adams County.
• The American cuckoo-flower (Cardamine pratensis var. palustris), not seen in Ohio since the early 1990s, found in Summit County.
• The water marigold (Bidens beckii), last spotted in Ohio in the 1930s, found in Portage County.
“Ohio’s natural diversity continues to educate, inspire and surprise us,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “These discoveries are an exciting development for the future of conservation in our state.”
Vasey’s pondweed is found in other states but is generally considered rare. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife describes it as “a delicate, submersed aquatic herb in the pondweed family.”
The plant was rediscovered by a group that included Mark Warman, aquatic invasive species project coordinator for Cleveland MetroParks, and Rebecah “Becah” Troutman, natural resource land steward for Lorain MetroParks.
Warman has been carrying out aquatic invasive plant surveys in Ohio’s Lake Erie Basin. His work is funded by a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
On May 28, a group including Warman carried out surveys at Carlisle Reservation, located just east of Oberlin. At the end of the day, the group decided to make one more stop at one more wetland, Troutman said.
“Mark was actually the one who saw it,” she said.
Warman remembers saying, “This is something cool,” but wasn’t sure what the plant was at first.
Once the plant tentatively was determined to be Vasey’s pondweed, it had to be collected about a month later, when it had seeds, for confirmation. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History confirmed the species and sent the information to the state.
Warman suspects a duck or another form of waterfowl introduced the plant into the wetland.
The exact location where the rare plant lives is a secret.
“You don’t want to risk having it become extirpated again,” Troutman said.
Finding a plant believed to have been wiped out in Ohio is a big deal, she said.
“It’s definitely really exciting. It’s probably the highlight of my career,” she said. “It will probably never happen again to me in my lifetime.”
Tom Jackson is a reporter for the Sandusky Register.