Friday, October 15, 2010

In Chicago, of all places

I have heard it said, and I believe it:

The tropical rainforest is important and we should teach its conservation. But it is equally important for an American child to love and value the forest just beyond his own backyard, that he or She may mature into a grown-up who cares.

Only today I have learned of a tiny, unique little flower, believed extinct. In a purely material sense, who knows what pharmaceuticals might have been extracted from it for the benefit of humankind? Thismia apparently had a relationship with local soil fungi. Perhaps it produced botanical chemicals to ward off other fungi or bacteria.

Who knows what a study of its DNA and habitat might have added to the discussion of continental drift, and how it came to be so far from its only living relatives in Australia.

You see, this little flower, thismia, wasn't found on some pristine Montana prairie, not even in a deep Smoky Mountains forest. It was found, in 1916, in a wetland in ...

... Chicago.

And since the initial report by a sharp-eyed scientist, it has never been seen again. And in the years following, someone smothered the site in fill dirt. And no one really cared, because it was Chicago after all, a city, not some wild wilderness. And so we may never know its story.

No comments: