Mountain Golden Heather (Hudsonia montana)
Family: Rock-Rose (Cistaceae)
Federal Status: Threatened, listed October, 20, 1980
Best Search Time: Late-May through Early June
Description: Mountain golden heather is a tiny, needle-leaved shrub with yellow flowers. It usually grows about 6 inches (in) (15.2 centimeters; cm) tall, in clumps from 4 - 8 in (10.1 – 20.3 cm) across. Occasionally, very vigorous plants form larger patches of a foot or more in length. The plants have the general appearance of a large moss or low juniper, but their branching is more open, their leaves are about one-quarter of an inch long, and the plant is often somewhat yellow-green in color, especially in shaded areas. The flowers appear in early or mid-June, are nearly an inch across, and have five blunt-tipped petals. Viable seeds may remain in the soil over more than one growing season when germination conditions are unfavorable. Mountain golden heather usually begins flowering in its third year and roots vegetatively at the edges once it forms large clumps, after perhaps ten years.
Habitat: Mountain golden heather usually grows on exposed quartzite cliffs at elevations of 2,800 to 4,000 feet (853 – 1219 meters).
Distribution: Mountain golden heather is found in Burke and McDowell Counties, North Carolina.
Threats: Intensive recreational use by hikers, climbers, and campers has resulted in a loss of plants due to trampling and soil compaction. Plants have also been taken from the wild by collectors. A major contributor to the decline of this species is the exclusion of natural wildfire from its habitat. Recent studies have shown that the habitat of mountain golden heather is adapted to periodic fire. Wildfire suppression has changed forest composition, allowing shrubs and trees to take over the naturally open habitat required by golden heather.
Critical Habitat: Critical habitat for Mountain Golden Heather was designated on October 20, 1980 (45 FR 69360 69363).
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. 1983. Mountain Golden Heather Recovery Plan. Atlanta, GA. 26 pp.
For More Information on Mountain Golden Heather...
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Conservation Online System
- Heller’s Blazing Star 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.