Short's Goldenrod

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Short's Goldenrod

Solidago shortii

ListedSeptember 5, 1985
FamilyCompositae (Asteraceae)
DescriptionPerennial herb with ascending stems, narrow leaves, and yellow flowers.
HabitatCedar glades, forest clearings, pastures.
ThreatsRestricted range.


Short's goldenrod (Solidago shortii ) is a perennial herb, usually with several erect or ascending stems 20-52 in (50.8-132.1 cm) tall. Stems arise from a creeping rhizome. Alternate leaves are narrowly elliptical or elongated, 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) long, up to 0.6 in (1.5 cm) wide, and crowded on the stems. Leaves decrease in size toward the ends of the stems. Ten to 14 yellow flowers are borne in an inflorescence between mid-August and early November. Light brown fruits (achenes) mature several weeks after the flowers wither.


Short's goldenrod is found in cedar glades and clearings in oak and hickory forests, in pastures, and along highway rights-of-way. It requires full sun or slight shade.


Short's goldenrod is endemic to Kentucky. The original discovery site at Rock Island, adjacent to Falls of the Ohio on the Ohio River, was later inundated by a dam. In 1939 Short's goldenrod was rediscovered in the vicinity of Blue Licks, Kentucky, and other colonies were later found on rocky slopes and in pastures where Robertson, Nicholas, and Fleming Counties converge.

The largest remaining population is adjacent to the Old Buffalo Trace, which passes through Blue Licks Battlefield State Park. The historic distribution of Short's goldenrod may have been correlated with disturbance caused by bison, and fire may have opened clearings within woods to provide habitat for the plant.

A 1980 survey confirmed only one remnant population, within Blue Licks Battlefield State Park in Robertson County. Much of this population was inadvertently destroyed by campground construction in the mid-1970s. During surveys in the early 1980s, however, 12 additional locations were discovered nearbyall within 1 mi (1.6 km) of the Blue Licks park. In 1995 a recovery team returned seven clumps of Short's goldenrod to historic habitat on the Indiana side of the falls where the plant was originally discovered by Dr. Charles Short in 1840. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) lists the species to occur in Kentucky.


Botanists speculate that Short's goldenrod may have depended on the herds of bison that once followed an old trace north to the Ohio River. Before their elimination by settlers, herds of bison traveled to the Blue Licks for the salt springs and kept large tracts of land open by browsing. Brush fires were equally important historically for maintaining open habitat, but a fire in the plant's current restricted range could destroy much of the population.

Conservation and Recovery

In 1981 a portion of the state park was set aside as a goldenrod preserve. In 1986 the Nature Conservancy purchased 5 acres (2 hectares), called the Buffalo Trace Preserve, to protect the most northerly occurrence outside of the park. The Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission and the Kentucky Chapter of the Nature Conservancy have made significant efforts to protect the species, cooperating to develop a voluntary registration program for private landowners and working to acquire adjacent lands.

Perhaps the most significant recovery effort to date took place in 1995, when staff of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Divisions of Nature Preserves and State Parks and the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, in cooperation with the FWS, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Shooting Star Nursery (which donated cultivated plants), returned seven clumps of Short's goldenrod to historic habitat on the Indiana side of the falls. This group effort resulted in a rare and noteworthy event, in which an endangered species was at once reestablished to all of its historic range. Few other recovery efforts have been conducted with such ease.

The goldenrod clumps, seedling progeny of the Blue Licks population, were planted in crevices of limestone bedrock within Falls of the Ohio State Park. The land, leased from the Corps of Engineers, appears to provide excellent habitat for the species. Although the site is inundated by torrents of river water in the winter and spring months, the scouring effect presumably is critical to maintaining the sunny, well-drained environment needed by the plant. Without the scouring, trees and shrubs might become established and shade out the goldenrod.

The restoration site appears to be appropriate not only in habitat but in location as well. Until recently, it was assumed that all collections of Short's goldenrod were taken from the Kentucky portion of the Falls of the Ohio, namely from Rock Island. Inspection of a collection journal of Dr. Asahel Clapp, a New Albany, Indiana, physician and botanist, revealed that the goldenrod was noted by him on September 18, 1844, from the "N. shore of the falls near Jeffersonville" [Indiana]. The replantings could be within just a few feet of his original observations.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
Telephone: (404) 679-4000


Baskin, J. M., and C. C. Baskin. 1984. "Rediscovery of the Rare Kentucky Endemic Solidago shortii T. & G. in Fleming and Nicholas Counties." Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Sciences 45: 159.

Baskin, J. M., and C. C. Baskin. 1985. "A Floristic Study of a Cedar Glade in Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, Kentucky." Castanea 50 (1): 19-25.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1988. "Short's Goldenrod Recovery Plan." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta.

Warren, J. L., Jr., and others. 1986. "Endangered, Threatened, and Rare Plants and Animals of Kentucky." Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Sciences 47: 83-98.