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TTU Students Discover Rare Plant Species In Smithville

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
TTU Students Discover Rare Plant Species In Smithville

Tennessee Tech students found a rare plant species that only has four other discovered populations.

The plant called the Cumberland pagoda-plant was found near the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville. Biology Professor Dr Shawn Krosnick said students were collecting samples for a field botany course when coming across the plant.

“It was right next to a giant tree that had fallen over and was blocking the trail as we were heading back up hill at the end of our last day out there,” Krosnick said. “So, we had to maneuver around this giant tree and we just happened to see the bright white flowers.”

The specimen can be found in the Hollister Herbarium, Tech’s museum that houses nearly 40,000 plant. Krosnick said the plant was first described in 2020, so finding a new population was significant.

“Being able to find it in the wild or in nature is really helpful, especially because it is a new population,” Krosnick said. “So it expended the range that they only knew from these historical specimens.”

Krosnick said the excitement of the discovery did not set in until the next week. Krosnick said the class returned to Tech’s campus to identify their collections, but the species did not match anything on the identification key.

“It didn’t fit any of those, and I knew that a new species had been recently published so I thought maybe it’s that new species,” Krosnick said. “Usually when that happens and we think we have something exciting it turns out it’s not always. It may just be we made a mistake in identification or it’s not the plant it thought it was, but in this case it was.”

Krosnick said she reached out to one of the authors that first described the plant in 2020. Krosnick said the scientist confirmed the discovery, and the class then celebrated.

“Thank you to the students who helped,” Krosnick said. “They worked really hard, and they were a really fun group. I always get really inspired by working with the students, and this group was totally fun to spend two weeks with.”


The post TTU Students Discover Rare Plant Species In Smithville appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.