Follow the Butterfly: Rediscovery of ‘Extinct’ Plants Highlights Sri Lanka’s New Red List

Himesh Dilruwan Jayasinghe was on a butterfly chase in Sri Lanka’s Knuckles Mountains, in the Indian Ocean island’s central highlands. He’d tracked down a rare butterfly known as the small leopard, named after the markings on its wings, and was moving in for a closer look at the eggs it had laid in a host plant.

Suddenly he found himself transfixed. Not by the butterfly, or its eggs, but by the plant itself.

Here was a Rinorea decora plant, not seen since 1888, and categorized as extinct on Sri Lanka’s last red list of threatened plants, updated in 2012.

Jayasinghe’s discovery is one of many serendipitous revelations documented in the newly updated red list. (Though called the National Red List 2020, it was published this year.)

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