New Species Found in Big Thicket

photo by: Pinebox Nature Society

photo by: Pinebox Nature Society

The Big Thicket is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, and now biologists have added one more to the list. In a weekend conference in Austin, amateur botanist Mary Ann Wilkinson revealed that she had discovered a previously unknown species of flowering plant in the area of the Big Thicket commonly known as Tunny’s Run.

Wilkinson described how she made the discovery by accident.

“I was in the thicket hunting mushrooms and I thought I heard someone call my name. I followed the noise and came across a small clearing in the trees. There among the grasses was this stand of plants that I’d never seen before. I’m pretty knowledgable about plants and ferns and instantly recognized that this was something new.”

The plant grows to approximately one foot tall and has small white flowers that open only at night. The deep purple center and marking on the petals give it the appearance of a bird in flight. This has sparked Wilkinson’s imagination and she has determined that it’s common name will be Ravenstar. The academic name is still being decided.

“This is really exciting,” said Dr. Timothy Dolby, a professor of biology at ETU. “Unlike Southeast Asia or Africa, we in Texas don’t get a lot of opportunity to add to the known flora. I’m looking forward to our first expedition to the area and collecting samples of this Ravenstar.”

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