Extinct Plant Not So Extinct After All

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Some happy endangered species news this week. A California plant thought to be extinct in the wild was recently upgraded to “endangered” after being accidentally uncovered by construction workers. Apparently, they were clearing brush for road construction near the Golden Gate Bridge and a botanist driving by saw the shrub and did a double take. The Franciscan Manzanita, a pretty red-wooded shrub with dark green leaves and white clusters of flowers, was thought to have gone extinct in the 1940s when its last known habitat, a San Francisco cemetery, was moved to make way for residential development. Because the rediscovery was so unexpected, and because the little plant was right in the middle of an active construction site, its fate is uncertain as local agencies discuss how to best handle the situation. Local conservationists are hoping the federal government can protect it under the Endangered Species Act, and according to the Center for Biological Diversity, they’ll need all the help they can get. The CBD yesterday filed an intent to sue the Obama administration for dragging its feet and failing to make the “required findings to determine whether 144 species warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act…”

In tangentially related news, the koala may not have much time as a non-endangered species. Besides eating only eucalyptus and battling global warming, the fuzzy little guys have another, less expected threat: chlamydia. Yes, it’s true, those cute cuddly marsupials have STDs. The koala population has fallen by nearly half (to around 50,000) since 2003, and many of them died from chlamydia. The koala version of HIV is also becoming more prevalent. Research to develop vaccines for both diseases is underway, but it’s uncertain how scientists are exactly going to administer them to koalas in the wild.


Follow Jen Phillips on Twitter.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend