Chet Neufeld has quickly become the Indiana Jones of rare wildflowers, after rediscovering a plant — the short-flower suncup — which had not been seen in Saskatchewan since 1965.
Neufeld is executive director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan and this summer he led a team of amateur botanists on a daring mission to the southwest corner of the province, convinced they could find the plant.
The plant was one year away from being listed as an "extirpated" species. And extirpated species is one that has not been seen for 50 years in a particular area.
Neufeld, anxious to avoid that fate for the suncup, began pulling together funding sources so that proper field research could take place.
In order to settle on a starting point of where to look, Neufeld relied on notes made by the last person who saw the flower in Saskatchewan. The notes referred to an area near Frontier, Sask. and a body of water known as Tait Lake.
Today, Tait Lake no longer exists having been farmed over.
"It's not just finding the needle in the haystack," Neufeld explained to CBC News. "You've got to find the haystack first."
With a team of 12, Neufeld went to Frontier to begin the search in July.
Eventually, their quest took them to a spot known as the East Block of Grasslands National Park where they settled on examining an area about .65 square kilometres in size — or 160 acres, a quarter section of land.
Just as they were about to wrap for the day, a member of the team, Glen Lee, discovered a blooming suncup. They pored over the surrounding area and discovered 12 more flowers, but none were in bloom.
The blooming state of the one plant was a bit of luck as the plant is small, about the size of a hand, and difficult to spot when not in bloom.
They took lots of photos and then headed to Val Marie to celebrate.