Human Elements: Finding the elusive Gorge daisy

Biologist Steven Clark searches for tiny, rare flowers in hard-to-reach places.

Steven Clark bushwhacks his way up a trail. It turns into a scramble, both hands, as he searches for something tiny and special, a rare flower.

Clark is a biologist and professor at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, where he teaches students all about the interconnectedness of ecosystems. But in his spare time, he ventures into the field to look for and document rare, native plants — which are often hidden in hard-to-reach places.

On this day his assignment is to locate the Gorge Daisy. This is no ordinary daisy, however. The flower is characterized  by the touch of lavender around the edges of the petals. The Gorge Daisy grows only in a little tiny crevice on the side of wet cliffs.”They find a place that's so inhospitable that they're the only one that can grow there,” Clark said. The reason it's rare isn't because it's being wiped out. It's because it has such particular requirements for survival. 

“Evolution has crafted these beautiful, intricate, minute relationships for thousands of years. And when we find that rare plant, we found one that is still here doing its job the way it always has,” Clark said. 

For Clark, it’s more than just science; it’s a treasure hunt. And the treasure is finding the existence of something small in a big world.

 “It makes you feel beautifully small in the world of evolution,” Clark said.

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors