The first plant recovered under the Endangered Species Act…Drumroll please!

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

It is able to withstand some of the harshest weather conditions in New England, yet despite this, the Robbins’ cinquefoil flower (Potentilla robbinsiana) needed the protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive.

As a result of over collecting, habitat destruction and trampling, this small alpine species from the rose family that grows on the slopes of the White Mountains in New Hampshire was nearly lost forever.

For us, the story begins in 1824, when the yellow-flowered Robbins’ cinquefoil was discovered along the Crawford Path ascending Mount Washington. The footpath – now recognized as the oldest continually used mountain trail in the U.S. – was completed just five years earlier.

Over the next 150 years, hiking and backpacking boomed, and foot traffic and horses trampled the cinquefoil, creating a deep and rutted path through its habitat. Additionally, plant collectors rigorously plucked the quarter-sized plant from the mountainside.

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