Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana)

Virginia spiraea. Credit: USFWS

Virginia spiraea. Credit: USFWS

Family: Rose (Rosaceae)

Federal Status: Threatened, listed September 26, 1991

Best Search Time: May through early-July

Description: Virginia Spiraea is a perennial shrub with many branches. It grows 3 to 10 feet (ft) (0.9 – 3.0 meters; m) tall. The alternate leaves are single-tooth serrated, 1 - 6 inches (in) (2.5 – 15.2 centimeters; cm) long and 1 to 2 inches (2.5 - 5 cm) wide; occasionally curved; and have a narrow, moderately tapered base. The leaves are also darker green above than below. The plant produces flowers that are yellowish green to pale white, with stamens twice the length of the sepal. It blooms from May through early July, but flower production is sparse and does not begin until after the first year of establishment. Virginia spiraea has a clonal root system that can fragment and produce more plants. This form of vegetative reproduction is more common than sexual reproduction in this species.

Habitat: Virginia Spiraea occurs along rivers and streams and relies on periodic disturbances, such as high-velocity scouring floods, which eliminate competition from trees and other woody vegetation. However, if the frequency and intensity of these floods is too great, the plant may become dislodged and wash downstream into less suitable habitat.

Distribution: Virginia Spiraea is a Southern Appalachian species, with isolated populations found in the mountain regions of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Threats: Due to its specific habitat requirements, Virginia Spiraea is vulnerable to alterations of stream-flow patterns. Impoundments, road construction, unmanaged recreational use of river corridors, industrial development, lack of watershed management, and uncontrolled development of river corridors have already threatened and exterminated several populations of this species. Other threats to Virginia Spiraea include competition from exotic invasive plants and cattle grazing along stream and river banks.


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. 1992. Virginia Spiraea (Spiraea virginiana Britton) Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Newton Corner, MA. 47 pp.

For More Information on Virginia spiraea...

Species Contact:

Rebekah Reid, Botanist, 828-258-3939 ext. 238  Rebekah_Reid@fws.gov

Species profile revised on September 15, 2011.

Last Updated: August 24, 2017