News  Rare plant found on Cape Cod

Earlier this month, botanists found American chaffseed on Cape Cod, a federally endangered plant that hasn't been seen in Massachusetts since 1965.
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
  • MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program

Media Contact   for Rare plant found on Cape Cod

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

American chaffseed

In early July, Doug McGrady, a botanist from Rhode Island, made an incredible discovery on Cape Cod. He came across American chaffseed (Schwalbea americana), a federally endangered plant that hasn’t been seen in Massachusetts since 1965. MassWildlife staff visited the site shortly after to confirm the discovery, where they counted over 2,600 stems. Because of this discovery, American chaffseed will be added as “endangered” to the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act list.

American chaffseed is a perennial herb that stands about 1–2 feet tall with large purplish-yellow flowers. It is a hemiparasite (half parasitic), meaning it partially depends on nourishment from other host plants, but also undergoes photosynthesis itself.

There are historic records of American chaffseed along coastal plains from Massachusetts to Louisiana, but populations declined over time due to habitat loss and fire suppression. Since chaffseed depends on partly-open habitat, it requires disturbance on the landscape such as fire or mowing. Prescribed fire is being considered to manage the Cape Cod site in the future.


MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program conserves and protects the most vulnerable native animal and plant species of Massachusetts and the habitats upon which they depend for the benefit of everyone's future. You can help support endangered species conservation by reporting rare species and donating to the Endangered Wildlife Conservation Fund. 

Media Contact   for Rare plant found on Cape Cod

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