Blue Ridge Goldenrod

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Blue Ridge Goldenrod

Solidago spithamaea

Status Threatened
Listed March 28, 1985
Family Compositae (Asteraceae)
Description Erect, perennial herb with lanceshaped leaves and yellow flowers.
Habitat Dry rock crevices.
Threats Recreational use of habitat.
Range North Carolina, Tennessee

Description

Blue Ridge goldenrod, Solidago spithamaea, is an erect perennial herb, 4-8 in (10.2-20.3 cm) tall, arising from a short, stout rhizome. The stem is thickened and strongly ribbed at the base, and becomes tinged with red toward the end. Leaves are smooth, lance-or spatula-shaped, 3.2-6 in (8-15 cm) long. The plant produces yellow flower heads arranged in a flattened cluster, called a corymbiform inflorescence. The plant spreads vegetatively by extending shoots from its rhizome.

Blue Ridge goldenrod is one of a few southeastern representatives of a genus that is more widespread in northern alpine habitats. The name of the genus comes from the Latin words solidus and ago to make firmand refers to purported healing properties of the plant family.

Habitat

Blue Ridge goldenrod grows in full sunlight in dry rock crevices of granite outcrops on the higher peaks of the Appalachian Mountains that experience perhaps the most extreme winter conditions in North Carolina and Tennessee. The shallow soils are highly acidic. The habitat elevation is above 4,000 ft (1219.2 m).

Distribution

This plant is endemic to the higher Appalachian mountain peaks of North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

Of the three known populations of Blue Ridge goldenrod, two are located on private land at Grandfather Mountain and at Hanging Rock in Avery County, North Carolina. The third population occurs within the Cherokee National Forest at Roan Mountain, straddling Mitchell County, North Carolina, and Carter County, Tennessee. The most vigorous stands of the plant, numbering several thousand stems, grow on Grandfather Mountain.

Threats

Blue Ridge goldenrod has been damaged by large-scale recreational development of at least three other open mountain summits where it formerly grew. Construction of observation platforms, trails, parking lots, access roads, and suspension bridges destroyed plants and opened previously inaccessible portions of habitat to hikers and sight-seers, who have severely disturbed plant sites. As one botanist put it, Blue Ridge goldenrod seems to have an instinct for growing in the most scenic sites, thus coming underfoot.

Conservation and Recovery

Hanging Rock is currently being developed into a ski and resort area, but the landowner has agreed to cooperate in the site's protection. Grandfather Mountain is also being developed as a commercial recreational site, but a conservation agreement has been in place there since 1983, ensuring cooperation of the landowner.

Additional development in the National Forest will not occur without proper consideration of effects on goldenrod populations. The Forest Service has crafted a management strategy to rid goldenrod sites of encroaching shrubs and will consider redirecting hiking trails away from plant populations. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture have cooperated extensively to conserve the plant.

The Blue Ridge Goldenrod Recovery Plan sets the objective of attaining five self-sustaining, protected populations. This will require stabilizing and expanding the three existing populations and discovering or transplanting at least two more. At that point, the species could be considered for delisting.

Contact

Regional Office of Endangered Species
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
http://southeast.fws.gov/

References

Keener, C. S. 1983. "Distribution and Biohistory of the Endemic Flora of the Mid-Appalachian Shale Barrens." Botanical Review 49(1):65-115.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. "The Blue Ridge Goldenrod Recovery Plan." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta.