You Can Name an Extinct Animal. How About a Plant?

Almost 600 plant species have disappeared from the wild over the past 250 years, a new research project found.

Published Monday in the journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution, the study states that 571 plants have been wiped from the face of the Earth and plants species are going extinct 500 times faster than the normal rate of loss without human intervention.

"This study is the first time we have an overview of what plants have already become extinct, where they have disappeared from, and how quickly this is happening".

In May a United Nations report estimated that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.

Around two species of plants go extinct every year - although the true figure is likely to be even higher as plants may be disappearing before they are even discovered, the researchers said.

The lost plants include the Chile sandalwood, which was exploited for essential oils, the banded trinity plant, which spent much of its life underground, and the pink-flowered St Helena olive tree.

But the first global analysis of its kind finds that twice as many plants have disappeared than birds, mammals, and amphibians combined.

One positive, though, was evidence that some plants once thought extinct have been rediscovered, such as the Chilean crocus.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Stockholm University researchers said plants on islands, in the tropics and Mediterranean climates had the highest rates of extinction while plant species in woody and small geographical areas had the highest rates of reported extinction, suggesting that the increase is due to the destruction of native vegetation resulting in habitat loss.

All life on Earth depends on plants, which provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat.

'This new understanding of plant extinction will help us predict (and try to prevent) future extinctions of plants, as well as other organisms.

"Millions of other species depend on plants for their survival, humans included, so knowing which plants we are losing and from where, will feed back into conservation programmes targeting other organisms as well", she explained.

Teach our children to see and recognise local plants.

"Plants make the infrastructure of ecosystems as well as give everybody food and air".

Tuesday's report wasn't the only plant study raising alarms.