SAN FRANCISCO A flower called the Mount Diablo buckwheat, long thought to be extinct, has been discovered in a California state park almost seven decades after it was last seen.
The pink wildflower Eriogonom truncatum, which resembles baby's breath used in floral arrangements, was last seen 69 years ago. It was found in a remote section of a Contra Costa County park that is popular among hikers, scientists said Wednesday.
Botanists have searched in vain for the plant for decades. The find immediately drew comparisons to the recent discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas, a bird long presumed extinct.
''We've been calling the Mount Diablo buckwheat the holy grail for botanists (in the region),'' said Barbara Ertter, curator of Western North American flora at the University of California, Berkeley's Jepson Herbarium.
The flower was discovered by Michael Park, 35, a first-year Berkeley graduate student pursuing a doctorate in integrative biology. Park is surveying part of Mount Diablo as part of his senior thesis.
Park was on a routine visit to the mountain about 30 miles east of San Francisco when he spotted what he suspected was buckwheat. The plants were approaching full bloom and the stalks were pushing up in a wishbone pattern.
''Once I realized that it was the Mount Diablo buckwheat I was in shock so I pretended it wasn't there and continued with my other work,'' Park said.
He took several botanists back to the site for confirmation. The location is being kept secret, but the dozen-plus plants were found on a property preserved by the conservation group Save Mount Diablo.
Botanists will study the flowers' population to determine if there are any threats from feral pigs, turkeys or nonnative species. They will then stabilize the flowers.
Many rare California plants are facing serious threats from nonnative species, said Seth Adams, director of land programs for Save Mount Diablo.
Adams said the swath of flowers may have survived thanks to persistent brush rabbits who nibble on nonnative grass that can force out local species.
Adams said he talked about the discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker on a recent backpacking trip. Just weeks later, he heard about the flower discovery.
''These stories resonate with people because they show we can set back the clock and do it right,'' he said.
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