Thismia americana

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Thismia americana
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Dioscoreales
Family: Burmanniaceae
Genus: Thismia
Species: T. americana
Binomial name
Thismia americana
  • Sarcosiphon americanus (N.Pfeiff.) Schltr.

Thismia americana, the banded trinity,[2] was a species of flowering plant that was described and published as living in wetlands surrounding Chicago's Lake Calumet in the 1910s. The specimen was found in what was then a wet-mesic sand prairie at 119th Street and Torrence Avenue in what would become the industrial neighborhood of South Deering.[3] The plant has not been seen since 1916, and the ground where it was observed has since been extensively altered by industrial development. The species is believed to be extinct.[4] An extensive volunteer search, conducted in August 2011 on the far south side of Chicago, did not uncover any specimens of the vanished species.[5]

Life cycle[edit]

Thismia americana drew interest from botanists because of its extremely specialized ecological niche. T. americana lacked chlorophyll. Instead of converting solar energy, the flowering plant was a mycoheterotroph, utilizing local fungi of the southern Lake Michigan wetlands for its nourishment. The plant enjoyed a short, shy life cycle above ground; in July, its roots would sprout a tiny flowering head, which produced a white flower the size of a jewelry bead.[4]

Thismia americana was published by University of Chicago botanical Ph.D. candidate Norma Pfeiffer, who became the first and only scientist to observe and describe the species. By examining the rare plant's morphology, Pfeiffer determined that it was a species of the genus Thismia, a genus that at the time was believed to occur only in the Southern Hemisphere. No one knows how this isolated population survived in North America until historic times.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Thismia americana N.Pfeiff.". The Plant List. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Thismia americana". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Rodkin, Dennis (September 22, 1994). "Searching for Thismia". Chicago Reader. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Thismia Americana - A mystery that still haunts - and helps - the Calumet region" (PDF). University of Chicago. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  5. ^ Arthur Melville Pearson, "A Quest for the Great White Grail", Outdoor Illinois XIX:11 (November 2011), pages 6-7.

Further reading[edit]