Asheville Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America





Small-anthered bittercress
Cardamine micranthera

Status: Endangered

Description: Small-anthered bittercress is an erect, slender perennial herb with fibrous roots and one (or rarely more) simple or branched stem growing two to four decimeters tall. Basal leaves are one to five centimeters long, and ½ to two centimeters wide. The stem leaves are alternate and mostly unlobed, one to 1.5 centimeters long. Flowering and fruiting occur in April and May. The flowers, surrounded by leafy bracts, have four white petals, six stamens, and small, round anthers.

Habitat: Small-anthered bittercress is found in seepages, wet rock crevices, stream banks, sandbars, and wet woods along small streams, in fully to partially-shaded areas.

Range: Small-anthered bittercress is known only from the Dan River basin in north-central North Carolina (Stokes County) and south-central Virginia (Patrick County)North Carolina county distribution for small-anthered bittercress. Currently known from Stokes County, historically known from Forsyth County.

Threats: With a very limited range, and found in close association with water, the plant is threatened by stream impoundments, channelization, water contamination, as well increased stormwater runoff which can abnormally increase the volume and velocity of stream flows, eroding stream banks and beds.
Encroachment of invasive exotic plant species, like Japanese honeysuckle, is also a threat. Many remaining sites are adjacent to agricultural fields and pastures. Accidental herbicide drift or run off could be detrimental, as could trampling and erosion on sites where livestock are allowed free access.
Listing: Endangered, September 21, 1989. 54 FR 38947 38950

Critical habitat: None designated

Why should we be concerned about the loss of species? Extinction is a natural process that has been occurring since long before the appearance of humans. Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation, at about the same rate other species become extinct. However, because of air and water pollution, forest clearing, loss of wetlands, and other man-induced environmental changes, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds the speciation rate.

All living things are part of a complex and interconnected network. We depend on the diversity of plant and animal life for our recreation, nourishment, many of our lifesaving medicines, and the ecological functions they provide. One-quarter of all the prescriptions written in the United States today contain chemicals that were originally discovered in plants and animals. Industry and agriculture are increasingly making use of wild plants, seeking out the remaining wild strain of many common crops, such as wheat and corn, to produce new hybrids that are more resistant to disease, pests, and marginal climatic conditions. Our food crops depend on insects and other animals for pollination. Healthy forests clean the air and provide oxygen for us to breathe. Wetlands clean water and help minimize the impacts of floods. These services are the foundation of life and depend on a diversity of plants and animals working in concert. Each time a species disappears, we lose not only those benefits we know it provided but other benefits that we have yet to realize.

What you can do to help
Tread lightly and stay on designated trails. 

Visit arboretums, botanical gardens, and parks and learn all you can about endangered plants and the causes of their declines.

Don’t collect or buy plants collected from wild populations.

Participate in the protection of our remaining wild lands and the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

Support wetland protection efforts at local, sate, and national levels.

Establish and maintain forested stream-side buffers. Several federal, state, and private programs are available to assist landowners, both technically and financially, with restoring and protecting stream-side buffers and eroding streams.

Implement and maintain measures for controlling erosion and storm water during and after land-clearing and disturbance activities. Excess soil in our streams from erosion is one of the greatest water pollution problems we have today.

Be careful with the use and disposal of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. Remember, what you put on your land or dump down the drain may eventually wind up in nearby water. 

Support local, state and national clean water legislation.

Report illegal dumping activities, erosion, and sedimentation problems. These activities affect the quality of our water, for drinking, fishing, and swimming.

Prepared by:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Asheville Field Office
160 Zillicoa Street 
Asheville, North Carolina 28801 
(828) 258‑3939

November, 2011




Species Contact:

Rebekah Reid
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 238
fax - 828/258-5330
160 Zillicoa St.
Asheville, NC 28801
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Last Updated: November 7, 2011