MANCHESTER, NH (WHDH) – The New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau has confirmed its first documented global plant dieback.
The plant, smooth slender crabgrass, was previously only known at Rock Rimmon Park in Manchester, NH. This is the first documented dieback in the state and only the fifth in New England since European settlement. Its demise is likely due in part to the heavy recreational use at the park.
This New Hampshire native crabgrass, known scientifically as Digitaria laeviglumis, differed from the weedy, turf-dwelling crabgrass.
Although samples of similar plants in Mexico and Venezuela were initially taken as evidence of the grass’s existence in other parts of the world, more recent studies have confirmed that they are distinct grasses.
Specimens of the grass were first collected from Manchester Park by botanist Frank Batchelder in 1901 and were last collected in 1931. Since then, 24 botanical investigations involving searches for the grass have been unsuccessful.
“The large number of 1931 collections of smooth slender crimson grass made by botanists to officially document the species may have inadvertently contributed to its decline,” said Bill Nichols, chief ecologist and state botanist at NH Natural Heritage Bureau. “But better understood impacts on its environment — including heavy recreational use, severe soil erosion at the summit, and competition from non-native cinquefoils — also likely contributed to its being declared globally extinct.”
Rock Rimmon is known to botanists as a hot spot. Plant books dating back to 1899 document 10 state endangered and state threatened plant species. The Natural Heritage Bureau has determined that five of the 10 rare plant species previously documented in the park, including the smooth slender crabgrass, are no longer there due to human activity.
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