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A leafy green plant with yellow flowers like a dandilion emerge from a rock crevace.
Information icon Blue Ridge goldenrod. Photo © Gregory Wilson.

Blue Ridge goldenrod

Solidago spithamaea

Taxon: Plant
Range: Blue Ridge goldenrod is only known from Avery County, North Carolina, and the border area between Mitchell County, North Carolina and Carter County, Tennessee.
Status: Listed as threatened on Mar. 28, 1985

Appearance

Blue Ridge goldenrod is a small perennial herb (4-8 inches tall). Its golden-yellow flowers appear from late July to September, and fruits form and ripen from July to October. Although there are many species of goldenrods, this one can be distinguished by its flat-topped flowers, small stature, smooth foliage, and toothed, non-clasping stem leaves.

A leafy green plant with yellow flowers like a dandilion
Blue Ridge goldenrod. Photo © Gregory Wilson.

Habitat

This species occupies rock outcrops, ledges, and cliffs at high elevations (generally above 4,600 ft.). The soils upon which this species grows are generally shallow and acidic. Blue Ridge goldenrods usually grow in full sun.

Range

Blue Ridge goldenrod is a rare plant endemic to a limited area in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

Conservation challenges

Confined to small areas on a few rocky summits in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this species and many of its rare associates are 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 which have been found to be concentrated at the higher elevations in the Southern Appalachians.

An exotic insect, the balsam woolly adelgid, is contributing to the decline of the fir forests adjacent to some of the cliffs where Blue Ridge goldenrod grows. Although the goldenrod does not grow beneath dense forests, the death of the adjacent forests is resulting in drier and hotter conditions. All of these factors may threaten the last remaining populations of Blue Ridge goldenrod.

Growing at some of the highest elevations in the Southern Appalachians, where the climate is significantly colder and weather harsher than surrounding areas, it’s suspected that global warming may be detrimental to this plant as well.

Recovery plan

Blue Ridge goldenrod can be considered recovered when five self-sustaining populations are permanently protected within the species’ natural habitat.

The three currently extant populations must be protected from trampling and recreational development, and two additional populations must be found or re-established within the species’ historic range. Populations must be determined to be self-sustaining.

One of the current populations is on U.S. Forest Service land. The agency has indicated its willingness to work with the Service to implement necessary conservation measures for the species at this site. These measures include control or diversion of foot traffic to prevent further trampling of the species and its fragile cliff edge habitat. Steps to accomplish this goal have already been undertaken, with natural barriers being used to block bushwhacked trails, ana closure orders issued for the most sensitive parts of this site. The remaining two populations are on private land, which has been or is being developed for commercial recreation facilities.

Download the recovery plan.

How you can help

  • Tread lightly and stay on designated trails. Vegetation on popular high mountains has nearly been destroyed by human trampling.
  • 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.
  • Be careful with the use and disposal of pesticides and other chemicals, especially near sensitive habitat. Wetlands are particularly valuable habitats for many rare plants and animals; be careful not to alter their hydrology or allow polluting chemicals to drain into them.
  • Recycle as much as you can. As landfills become full, new ones are often placed in undeveloped areas, causing the destruction of hundreds of acres of wild habitat.

Subject matter experts

Designated critical habitat

None designated.

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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