"We've always kept our eyes open for it, but it's like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Bob Popp, a botanist with the Vt. Fish and Wildlife Department.
It is the white camas. There were documented sightings of the rare plant in 1879 and 1911, but recordkeeping was vague, only mentioning it was spotted along Lake Champlain. Recently a kayaker and plant enthusiast noticed the plant on bed rock along the lake.
"This is the only location for it in all of New England," Popp said.
Botanists suspected it would be found again-- and it was. About 200 of the plants were discovered on a cliff along Lake Champlain. The hard-to-spot white camas blooms for less than two weeks each summer. It's a member of the lily family and grows to about a foot and a half tall and has about 10 flower heads on it. It is mostly found in Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Ontario. Being so rare, officials did not want us to disclose the exact location where this elusive plant can be found, to protect it.
"The reason why the species is so rare-- it is what we classify as a calcifies. So it needs high pH, bedrock with a lot of calcium in it, the bedrock along Lake Champlain is mostly limestone, so it's the perfect habitat," Popp said.
Even though Lake Champlain is lined with a hundred miles of limestone bedrock, Popp says he believes this location is the only spot where white camas is growing.
"It's just the right juxtaposition of the limey bedrock and the seepage, this is densely shaded, it doesn't like a lot of sun, doesn't like a lot of competition," Popp said.
Popp says there is evidence the white camas has been reproducing over the past century at this spot, and he says it is here to stay.
"It's one of the most exciting finds," Popp said.
The white camas is in the process of being added to the state's endangered species list.
The next nearest location that Popp knows where white camas grows is 200 miles away along the St. Lawrence River.
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