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A small black mussel with brownish yellow striations extends a small white appendage from its shell
Information icon Cumberland bean juveniles reared at the Center for Mollusk Conservation in Frankfort, Kentucky. Photo by Monte McGregor, Center Mollusk Conservation, Kentucky DFWR.

Cumberland bean

Villosa trabalis


The Cumberland bean is a small mussel 2 to 2.5 inches in length with an elongated, elliptical shell. The surface of the shell is covered with irregular growth lines. The shell color is dark green, but it may appear black with numerous dark green rays on the posterior end. The color inside the shell varies from pearly white to bluish-white.


This mussel inhabits small to medium streams with sand and gravel bottoms. Sinking Creek, a tributary stream of the Ohio River located in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, is one place providing habitat.


Mussels are filter feeders; they mainly eat phytoplankton, zooplankton, and bacteria suspended in the water. By drawing water inside their shells through a siphon, their gills filter out food and take in oxygen.

Historical range

The Cumberland bean was known only from the lower and upper tributary streams of the Tennessee River and the upper tributary streams of the Cumberland system. This species was known to be more abundant in the Cumberland system.

A shallow, rocky stream with mature trees on either bank providing shade
Cumberland bean habitat in Sinking Creek, Kentucky. Photo by Monte McGregor, Center Mollusk Conservation, Kentucky DFWR.

Current Range

Remnant populations of the Cumberland bean can still be found in river systems within the Cumberland River and Tennessee River drainages.

Cumberland River drainage

  • Buck Creek, Kentucky
  • Rockcastle River drainage, Kentucky
    • Rockcastle River
    • Sinking Creek
    • Horse Lick Creek
  • Big South Fork drainage, Kentucky and Tennessee
    • Big South Fork River
    • Station Camp Creek

Tennessee River drainage

  • Hiwassee River
  • Little Chucky Creek

For more detailed information on the current range for the Cumberland bean, please see our latest five-year review (PDF) for this species.

Counties where the species is present or believed to occur

  • Alabama: Jackson and Marshall
  • Kentucky: Jackson, Laurel, McCreary, Pulaski, and Rockcastle
  • North Carolina: Cherokee
  • Tennessee: Clay, Cocke, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, McMinn, Monroe, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Polk, Putman, Scott, Smith, Sullivan, Washington, and Wilson
  • Virginia: Bland, Buchanan, Dickerson, Lee, Norton, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe

Conservation challenges

Impoundments, siltation, and pollution are major threats to the Cumberland bean. Acidic mine waste in the Little South Fork, Big South Fork, and Rockcastle River Drainages are known to affect the species.

How you can help

Individuals can do a number of things to help protect mussels, such as:

  • Conserving water to allow more water to remain in streams.
  • Using pesticides responsibly, especially around streams and lakes, to prevent runoff into mussel habitats.
  • Controlling soil erosion by planting trees and plants to avoid runoff of sediments into freshwater areas.
  • Supporting practices for construction and maintenance of unpaved, rural dirt and gravel roads that minimize erosion and connectivity to our rivers and lakes.
  • Supporting and follow zebra mussel quarantine, inspection, and decontamination programs to prevent the spread of zebra mussels, an invasive species that competes with native mussels.

Subject matter experts

Designated critical habitat

No critical habitat is designated for this species.

Additional resources

Federal Register notices

The following Federal Register documents were automatically gathered by searching the Federal Register Official API with this species’ scientific name ordered by relevance. You can conduct your own search on the Federal Register website.

  • We're sorry but an error occurred. Visit the Federal Register to conduct your own search.

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