State News

Alpine plant believed locally extinct in Vermont since 1908 rediscovered

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department announced on Tuesday, Nov. 15 that the purple crowberry (Empetrum atropurpureum), a diminutive alpine shrub last documented in Vermont in 1908, has been rediscovered on Mt. Mansfield.

VTF&W photo, courtesy Glen Mittelhauser
The purple crowberry grows low to the ground in exposed, high elevation habitats.

“This is an extraordinary find,” said Bob Popp, a botanist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “The purple crowberry is easily overlooked alongside the closely related and more abundant black crowberry. This discovery emphasizes the benefit of having a community of keen botanical observers on the ground.” The purple crowberry grows low to the ground in rocky habitat above the tree line. The species is identifiable by needle-like leaves and purple berries, and is found in the
Northeast in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. The purple crowberry is listed as uncommon in New Hampshire and state endangered in New York.

Vermont botanists had searched Mt. Mansfield—the site of the 1908 historical record—for the purple crowberry unsuccessfully in recent decades and had determinedthat the species was no longer present in the state.

A fresh set of eyes on an overlooked stretch of Mt. Mansfield upended that conclusion.

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