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White flowers with many stamen burst from a shrub much like a hydrangea bush
Information icon Virginia spiraea, Walker County, Georgia. Photo © Alan Cressler, used with permission.

Virginia spiraea

Spiraea virginiana

The Virginia spiraea is found in the Appalachian Plateaus or the southern Blue Ridge Mountains in Alabama, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia. It no longer occurs in Pennsylvania. This plant was first discovered in Virginia in 1985. Most of the existing populations consist of only a few clumps. Mature plants reach a height of 3-10 feet. Young stems are greenish-yellow to dark brown and mature stems are dark gray. The roots form a complex system. The creamy white flowers are in tightly packed bunches.

Appearance

Virginia spiraea is a perennial shrub with many branches. It grows 3110 feet tall. Its alternate leaves are single‑tooth serrated; 1-6 inches long and 1-2 inches 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 late May to late 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 flower pollination and seed dispersal 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.

Historical range

The species historical range included Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.

Current range

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.

Conservation challenges

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. Another threat to Virginia spiraea is competition from exotic invasive plants.

Recovery plan

Delisting will be considered when:

  • three stable populations are permanently protected in each drainage where populations are currently known;
  • stable populations are established on protected sites in each drainage where documented vouchers have been collected;
  • potential habitat in the states with present or past collections has been searched for additional populations;
  • representatives of each genotype are cultivated in a permanent collection.

Recovery strategy

Protect the known populations and their habitat, and restore rangewide distribution. Understand the environmental tolerances and genetic diversity of the species to ensure long-term reproductive viability.

Actions needed

  • Protect existing populations and essential habitat through landowner cooperation and land acquisition.
  • Search for additional populations.
  • Conduct site-specific habitat manipulation as needed to maintain populations.
  • Maintain cultivated sources for reproduction studies as well as conservation and reintroduction activities.
  • Study the species’ environmental tolerances and habitat characteristics.
  • Re-establish populations within the historical range of the species.
  • Inform land owners and managers about the plant’s recovery needs.
  • Monitor populations and evaluate effectiveness of recovery efforts.

Download the 1992 recovery plan.

How you can help

  • Tread lightly and stay on designated trails.
  • 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.
  • Support wetland protection efforts at local, state, and national levels.
  • Establish and maintain forested stream-side buffers. Several federal, state, and private programs are available to assist landowners, both technically and financially, with restoring and protecting stream-side buffers and eroding streams.
  • Implement and maintain measures for controlling erosion and stormwater during and after land-clearing and disturbance activities. Excess soil in our streams from erosion is one of the greatest water pollution problems we have today.
  • Be careful with the use and disposal of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. Remember, what you put on your land or dump down the drain may eventually wind up in nearby water.
  • Support local, state and national clean water legislation.
  • Report illegal dumping activities, erosion, and sedimentation problems. These activities affect the quality of our water, for drinking, fishing, and swimming.

Subject matter expert

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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