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A biologist repels down a cliff face to find an endangered plant.
Information icon The National Park Service’s Matt Cooke measures a spreading avens plant. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Spreading avens

Geum radiatum

Spreading avens, sometimes called Appalachian avens or cliff avens, is a rare perennial herb endemic to a few scattered mountaintops in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. It grows on the shallow acidic soils of high-elevation cliffs, outcrops, and steep slopes and on gravelly talus associated with cliffs, often in full sun.

Appearance

Spreading avens is a tall perennial herb (eight to 20 inches) in the rose family. Its distinctive bright yellow flowers (generally up to 1 inch across) appear from June through September, and fruits form and ripen from August through October.

Habitat

The avens grows in full sun on the shallow acidic soils of high-elevation cliffs (above 4,200 feet), rocky outcrops, steep slopes, and on gravelly talus.

Range

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

Conservation challenges

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.

Recovery plan

Spreading avens will be considered for delisting when there are at least 16 self-sustaining populations that are protected to such a degree that the species no longer qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Actions needed

  • Survey suitable habitat for additional populations.
  • Monitor and protect existing populations.
  • Conduct research on the biology of the species.
  • Establish new populations or rehabilitate marginal populations to the point where they are self-sustaining.
  • Investigate and conduct necessary management activities at all key sites.

Download the 1993 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.

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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