Blue Ridge Goldenrod (Solidago spithamaea )
Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
Federal Status: Threatened, listed March 28, 1985
Best Search Time: July through September
Description: Blue Ridge goldenrod is a small perennial herb growing to 4 - 8 inches (10.1 – 20.3 centimeters) tall. Its golden-yellow flowers appear from late July to September, and fruits form and ripen from July to October. Although there are many species of goldenrods, this one can be distinguished by its flat-topped flower heads, small stature, smooth foliage, and toothed, non-clasping stem leaves.
Habitat: This species occupies rock outcrops, ledges, and cliffs at high elevations (generally above 4,600 feet (1,202 meters). The soils upon which this species grows are generally shallow and acidic. Blue Ridge goldenrod usually grows in full sun.
Distribution: Blue Ridge goldenrod is only known from Avery County, NC, and along the state line between Mitchell County, NC and Carter County, TN.
Threats: Confined to small areas on a few rocky summits in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this species and many of its rare associates are extremely vulnerable to such seemingly minor threats as trampling by hikers, climbers, and sightseers; as well as to more pervasive threats such as acid precipitation and other forms of air pollution which have been found to be concentrated at the higher elevations in the Southern Appalachians.
An exotic insect, the balsam woolly adelgid, is contributing to the decline of the fir forests adjacent to some of the cliffs where Blue Ridge goldenrod grows. Although the goldenrod does not grow beneath dense forests, the death of the adjacent forests is resulting in drier and hotter conditions. All of these factors may threaten the last remaining populations of Blue Ridge Goldenrod.
Growing at some of the highest elevations in the Southern Appalachians, where the climate is significantly colder and weather harsher than surrounding areas, it’s suspected that global warming may be detrimental to this plant as well.
References:Buchanan, M.F. and J.T. Finnegan. 2010. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Plant Species of North Carolina. N.C. Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. Blue Ridge Goldenrod Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia. 30 pp.
For More Information on Blue Ridge Goldenrod...
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Conservation Online System
- Blue Ridge Goldenrod Recovery Plan
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service Plants Database
- Center for Plant Conservation species profile
Mara Alexander, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 828-258-3939 ext. 238
Species profile revised on September 15, 2011.