Southeast Region
Conserving the Nature of America
Photo of flowering White-haired goldenrod

White-haired goldenrod. Credit: John MacGregor; KDFWR

White-Haired goldenrod (Solidago albopilosa)

  • Taxa: Plant
  • Range: Eastern Kentucky
  • Status: Threatened and Proposed for Delisting

The white-haired goldenrod is a unique plant to the Red River Gorge region of eastern Kentucky. The Red River Gorge is well known for its unique geology, scenic beauty, and outdoor recreational opportunities, and much of the area is located within the Daniel Boone National Forest.

In 1988, the plant was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, white-haired goldenrod populations were declining due to habitat loss.

Currently, there are nearly 120 occurrences of white-haired goldenrod with a majority of them found within the Daniel Boone National Forest. Of these occurrences, 46 are considered to be stable, self-sustaining, and protected, which exceeds the number required for recovery.

Download the Fact Sheet

News and Events

Due to successful conservation efforts by the Service and our partners, the white-haired goldenrod has improved to the point that we proposed it for delisting on September 1, 2015.

The Service is currently accepting public comments on our proposal to delist the white-haired goldenrod. We seek comments regarding biological data, relevant data concerning any threats, and the extent of federal and state protection and management that would be provided to white-haired goldenrod as a delisted species. Other comments to be considered include any additional information concerning the range, distribution, population size, and trends of the white-haired goldenrod, including the locations of any additional populations, and current or planned activities within the plant's geographic range. All public comments will be reviewed and considered in the Service's decision to potentially delist the species.


White-haired goldenrod is a slightly arching, perennial plant with alternate leaves and soft, white hairs covering the leaves and stems. The flower heads are fragrant and bright yellow, forming clusters at the end of the stem. Each flower head is composed of three to five ray flowers and at least 15 small, disk flowers. Flowering occurs from September to November, with the pale brown, pubescent fruit appearing as early as October. The flowers are visited by bees, moths, and syrphid flies, which are likely attracted by the fragrant, yellow flowers.


White haired golden rod calls this rock outcrop home
Photo: Michael Floyd, USFWS

White-haired goldenrod is restricted to sandstone outcroppings in the rugged Red River Gorge region.Within this area, white-haired goldenrod typically occurs on the floors of sandstone rock shelters (natural, shallow, cave-like rock formations) and on sheltered cliffs at elevations of between 797 and 1,299 feet. The plant may also be found on ledges or cracks in the ceiling or vertical walls of these habitats, but, regardless of the specific location, white-haired goldenrod is restricted to areas of partial shade behind the dripline and typically does not grow in the deepest part of rock shelters.


The white-haired goldenrod's range is limited to the Red River Gorge region of eastern Kentucky. The plant occurs in three Kentucky counties: Menifee, Powell, and Wolfe. Almost all of its known occurrences are located on the Daniel Boone National Forest, with the remaining occurring on private land.

Efforts Contributing to Conservation

White-haired goldenrod growing out of a rock face
Photo: Michael Floyd; USFWS

Cooperative recovery efforts by the Service and its partners, the U.S. Forest Service and the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission addressed threats and provided adequate protection and management to ensure the plant's recovery and survival. In addition, monitoring efforts by these partners documented additional occurrences of the plant that substantially increased the known number and distribution of white-haired goldenrod occurrences rangewide.

Over the last two decades years, the Daniel Boone National Forest redirected trails, installed and maintained protective fencing around sensitive locations where the plant is found, completed numerous back-country patrols near white-haired goldenrod habitats, and placed informational signs at rock shelters, picnic areas, and trailheads that provided information about the plant and ways the public could avoid impacting it.

The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission completed multiple status surveys for the species from 1996 to 2013, including an intensive range-wide effort in 2008-2009. These surveys documented each occurrence's population size and viability, habitat condition, and the severity of the threats facing each population. The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission also prepared a variety of fact sheets and posters that educated the public about the plant and how to protect its populations.


When the plant was listed, identified threats included ground disturbance and trampling associated with unlawful artifact collection and recreational activities, such as camping, hiking, rock climbing, and rappelling. The Red River Gorge is a heavily visited, popular recreational area, and many of these activities take place in or near rock shelters occupied by the white-haired goldenrod. Other identified threats included a proposed reservoir project; overutilization for recreational purposes; no state law protecting rare plants in Kentucky; and potential vegetational shifts in forests surrounding the plant's habitats.

Recovery from Threatened Status

The white-haired goldenrod has improved in status due to the successful conservation efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners. On September 1, 2015, we proposed to delist the white-haired goldenrod due to successful recovery.

The 1993 recovery plan for the white-haired goldenrod stipulated that delisting would be considered when at least 40 geographically distinct, self- sustaining plant locations are adequately protected and have been maintained for 10 years.

Based on surveys completed since 2008, 81 of the plant's 117 occurrences are considered to be stable. Of these occurrences, 46 are considered to be stable, self-sustaining, and protected, which exceeds the number required for recovery.

All of the threats to the plant have been eliminated or significantly reduced, adequate regulatory mechanisms exist, and a sufficient number of populations are stable, self-sustaining, and protected.

Download the Recovery Plan (PDF)

Keeping Populations Healthy

Sprawling green vegetation with bright yellow flowers
Photo: John MacGregor; KDFWR

The Service has developed a draft post-delisting monitoring plan for the white-haired goldenrod that will guide us in monitoring the plant for five years after it is delisted. That plan summarizes the species' status at the time of delisting, defines thresholds or triggers for potential monitoring outcomes and conclusions, lays out frequency and duration of monitoring, articulates monitoring methods including sampling considerations, outlines compilation and reporting procedures and responsibilities, and proposes a post-delisting monitoring implementation schedule including timing and responsible parties. The draft plan is available for public review along with the proposed delisting rule.

Agency Experts on this Species

Want to learn more from our biologists? Contact our Ecological Servies Field Office.

(502) 695-0468 or visit

Other Organizations Contributing to Conservation

Federal Register Documents