Running buffalo clover was thought to be extinct for more than four decades before its rediscovery in 1983 led to the plant’s inclusion on the endangered species list. Now, it could be removed from protected status.
The clover is identified by runners that extend from its stems and traverse the ground. The species once relied on bison herds, which periodically disrupted the soil, to maintain its growing conditions. When bison east of the Mississippi were mostly eliminated by 1830, the clovers disappeared too — almost.
After a botanist rediscovered the plant in West Virginia, running buffalo clover was added to the endangered species list in 1987. The conservation recovery plan that followed was a success, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, there are 154 known populations in six states. Even where the clover is not maintained by conservationists, the plants have thrived and shown resiliency.
On Aug. 27, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the clover from the endangered species list, and is accepting public comments on the decision through Oct. 28. If it is delisted, the agency is required to monitor the species’ populations for five years to ensure its stability. — By Rachael Kelley