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Despite the large, heavy-duty waterproof boots he wore, Scott Sherwood stepped through a meadow, trying to avoid hurting the tiny yellow wildflowers blooming all around him. After all, this flower grows only in this location in New Jersey — and no place else on Earth.
It was a challenge not stepping on the wildflowers, known as Hammond's yellow spring beauties. That wet meadow provides a unique habitat that allows this flower to proliferate. To protect these rare little flowers, the group has bought up about 100 acres of land surrounding the meadow.
The five-petaled yellow flower of Hammond’s yellow spring beauty is smaller than a coin. “This flower is an amazing thing, and not found anywhere but here,” said Barbara Brummer, the Nature’s Conservancy’s New Jersey director. The wildflower blooms in May, mixed in with white and purple violets, New Jersey’s state flower. The wildflowers were discovered by local naturalist Emilie K. Hammond more than 50 years ago. She thought they looked like native wildflowers in eastern North America, the common spring beauty. The plant has a white flower with pink stripes on the petals.
Hammond contacted the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, which researched the flower and decided it was merely a color variant of the common spring beauty. That changed in the mid-1980s, when a friend of Hammond’s saw a house being built near the meadow. Worried that the flowers could be destroyed by development, she told David, a Nature Conservancy botanist, about it. Snyder took a closer look. He noticed that the yellow spring beauties were in an odd spot. And every one of the flowers was yellow — not a single common spring beauty was in sight.
Snyder conducted genetic testing, though this was before they had access to DNA testing. "We still could conclude that this was definitely different from every other race of spring beauty," Snyder said.         

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