Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Spreading Avens (Geum radiatum)

Spreading Avens. Credit: USFWS

Spreading Avens. Credit: USFWS

Family: Rose (Rosaceae)

Federal Status: Endangered, listed April 5, 1990

Best Search Time: June through September

Description: Spreading avens is a tall perennial herb growing 8 - 20 inches (in) (20.3 – 50.8 centimeters; cm) tall. Its distinctive bright yellow flowers, which are generally up to 1 in (2.5 cm) across) appear from June through September, and fruits form and ripen from August through October.

Habitat: This species grows in full sun on the shallow acidic soils of high-elevation cliffs (above 4,200 feet (1,280 meters)), rocky outcrops, steep slopes, and on gravelly talus.

map of Spreading Avens distribution in North Carolina

Map of Spreading Avens distribution in North Carolina.

Distribution: Spreading avens is known to occur only on high mountain peaks in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

Threats: Being confined to small areas on a few rocky mountain summits, this species is 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. An exotic insect, the balsam woolly adelgid, contributes to the decline of the fir forests adjacent to the cliffs where Spreading avens grows. Although Spreading avens does not grow beneath dense forest, the death of the adjacent forests results in drier and hotter conditions, as well as increased soil erosion. All of these factors threaten the last remaining Spreading avens populations.


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. 1993. Spreading Avens Recovery Plan. Atlanta, Georgia. 32 pp.

For More Information on Spreading Avens...

Species Contact:

Mara Alexander, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 828-258-3939 ext. 238

Species profile revised on September 15, 2011.

Last Updated: August 6, 2015