Oak tree long thought to have been extinct now rediscovered

The tree is in poor condition and in desperate need of conservation. The Morton Arboretum described the tree's trunk as "scarred in fire" and it also "showed signs of severe fungal infection."

Shawshank Oak 521 (photo credit: MCT)
Shawshank Oak 521
(photo credit: MCT)

An oak tree known as the Quercus tardifolia, long thought to have gone extinct in 2011, was rediscovered by researchers in the Big Bend National Park in Texas, according to an official statement by The Morton Arboretum on Thursday.

The researchers involved were led by the arboretum and the United States Botanic Garden when they discovered the 30-foot tall tree in late May.

However, the tree is in poor condition and in desperate need of conservation. The Morton Arboretum described the tree's trunk as "scarred in fire" and it also "showed signs of severe fungal infection." 

To help protect the tree, the National Park Service is assisting to reduce the immediate wildfire threat.

Researchers' statements

“This work is crucial to preserve the biodiversity that Earth is so quickly losing. If we ignore the decline of Q. tardifolia and other rare, endangered trees, we could see countless domino effects with the loss of other living entities in the ecosystems supported by those trees,” said Murphy Westwood, Vice President of Science and Conservation at the Morton Arboretum.

IDF SOLDIERS stop for lunch at the renovated compound of ‘The Lone Oak Tree,’ around a 700-year-old tree in Alon Shvut. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)IDF SOLDIERS stop for lunch at the renovated compound of ‘The Lone Oak Tree,’ around a 700-year-old tree in Alon Shvut. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

“This work is crucial to preserve the biodiversity that Earth is so quickly losing. If we ignore the decline of Q. tardifolia and other rare, endangered trees, we could see countless domino effects with the loss of other living entities in the ecosystems supported by those trees.”

Murphy Westwood

Researching the Q. tardifolia's near-extinction could provide information that will prevent other organisms from extinction, scientists say.