CPC Plant Profile: Cumberland Sandwort
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Plant Profile

Cumberland Sandwort (Minuartia cumberlandensis)

Arenaria cumberlandensis is a white-flowered herb Photo Credit: Joe Metzmeier
Description
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Caryophyllaceae
  • State: KY, TN
  • Nature Serve ID: 159939
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 12/07/2021

Minuartia cumberlandensis is a schizoendemic that grows exclusively behind the dripline in sandstone rockhouse shelters (cave-like recesses beneath cliff overhangs) on the Cumberland Plateau (Kentucky and Tennessee). Because this unique habitat is sheltered from abrupt climate change, this species has likely persisted in rockhouses since the Pleistocene. The delicate sandwort occurs in tufts and produces tiny white flowers from early July through August.

Participating Institutions
Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 11/25/2021
  • Reintroduction

Arenaria cumberlandensis, the Cumberland sandwort, is native to southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee and grows in sandstone rockhouse habitat. It is threatened by rock climbing and digging for Native American artifacts.

Procedures for propagating this species in vitro were developed at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) in collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden in a project funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Cultures were initiated from several seeds received from the Missouri Botanical Garden that were germinated in vitro into seedlings. Plants were propagated from these culture lines and acclimatized to soil at CREW.

Plants were transported to a site within the historic range of the species to initiate an experimental outplanting. The site was selected and the plantings were done by the U.S. Forest Service in the fall of 2005. Different sites within the rockhouse were used for plantings, and the plants have been monitored yearly by USFS staff. Approximately half of the original plants survived and during the summer of 2007, seedlings were observed, indicating that the population was reproducing.

Center for Plant Conservation
  • 11/25/2021
  • Propagation Research

Arenaria cumberlandensis, the Cumberland sandwort, is native to southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee and grows in sandstone rockhouse habitat. It is threatened by rock climbing and digging for Native American artifacts.

Procedures for propagating this species in vitro were developed at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) in collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden in a project funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Cultures were initiated from several seeds received from the Missouri Botanical Garden that were germinated in vitro into seedlings. Plants were propagated from these culture lines and acclimatized to soil at CREW.

Plants were transported to a site within the historic range of the species to initiate an experimental outplanting. The site was selected and the plantings were done by the U.S. Forest Service in the fall of 2005. Different sites within the rockhouse were used for plantings, and the plants have been monitored yearly by USFS staff. Approximately half of the original plants survived and during the summer of 2007, seedlings were observed, indicating that the population was reproducing.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Cryo

Center for Research and Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has successfully developed a propagation protocol via tissue culture, as well as a protocol for cryopreserving shoot tips and storing them in liquid nitrogen.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Propagation Research

Center for Research and Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has successfully developed a propagation protocol via tissue culture, as well as a protocol for cryopreserving shoot tips and storing them in liquid nitrogen. Tissue culture propagation from material propagated by the CREW lab has been used to produce plants to establish an experimental outplanting in the Danial Boone National Forest in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (Pence et al., 2012).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Genetic Research

M. cumberlandensis diverged from its nearest relative (M. glabra) in the distant past, and maintains broader phylogenetic diversity among haplotypes than M. glabra (Winder 2004). Majority of genetic variation within the species resides in a central cluster of populations in Picket, Co., Tennessee (Winder 2004). Observed heterozygosity is low, suggesting some populations are at risk of inbreeding depression (Winder 2004). Extremely reduced gene flow among populations results in most of the genetic variation being distributed among populations (Winder 2004). Center for Research and Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has successfully developed a propagation protocol via tissue culture. This tissue culture propagation has been used to produce plants to establish an experimental outplanting in the Danial Boone National Forest in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (Pence et al., 2012). The population initiated in 2006 has reproduced and increased in size during over 10 years of monitoring by the USFS. Genetic studies are currently underway to document the genetic diversity of this population (Philpott et al. in prep.).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Reintroduction

A tissue culture propagation protocol for this species was developed, as well as a protocol for cryopreserving shoot tips and storing them in liquid nitrogen. Tissue culture propagation from material propagated by the CREW lab has been used to produce plants to establish an experimental outplanting in the Daniel Boone National Forest in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (Pence et al., 2012). The population initiated in 2006 has reproduced and increased in size during over 10 years of monitoring by the USFS. Genetic studies are currently underway to document the genetic diversity of this population (Philpott et al. in prep.).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Tissue Culture

Center for Research and Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has successfully developed a propagation protocol via tissue culture, as well as a protocol for cryopreserving shoot tips and storing them in liquid nitrogen. Tissue culture propagation has been used to produce plants to establish an experimental outplanting in the Daniel Boone National Forest in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (Pence et al., 2012). The population initiated in 2006 has reproduced and increased in size during over 10 years of monitoring by the USFS. Genetic studies are currently underway to document the genetic diversity of this population (Philpott et al. in prep.).

Valerie Pence
  • 01/08/2018

A tissue culture propagation protocol for this species was developed, as well as a protocol for cryopreserving shoot tips and storing them in liquid nitrogen.  Tissue culture propagation has been used to produce plants to establish an experimental outplanting in the Danial Boone National Forest in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service (Pence et al., 2012).  The population initiated in 2006 has reproduced and increased in size during over 10 years of monitoring by the USFS. Genetic studies are currently underway to document the genetic diversity of this population (Philpott et al. in prep.).

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Narrowly endemic to the Cumberland Plateau of northcentral Tennessee and adjacent Kentucky, where it is restricted to unusual cave-like sandstone overhangs. Within it's geographic range, there are over 50 sites. Threatened by recreational activities and timber harvest. At some sites threats have been successfully reduced by rerouting trails and erecting fences.

Matthew Albrecht & Kimberly McCue
  • 01/01/2010

Alteration of site hydrology (USFWS 1996). Human activities: hiking, camping, rockclimbing, and digging for archaeological artifacts (USFWS 1996).

Matthew Albrecht & Kimberly McCue
  • 01/01/2010

27 known occurrences in Tennessee, one in Kentucky (USFWS 1996). Plants can be numerous within their restricted areas.

Matthew Albrecht & Kimberly McCue
  • 01/01/2010

M. cumberlandensis diverged from its nearest relative (M. glabra) in the distant past, and maintains broader phylogenetic diversity among haplotypes than M. glabra (Winder 2004). Majority of genetic variation within the species resides in a central cluster of populations in Picket, Co., Tennessee (Winder 2004). Observed heterozygosity is low, suggesting some populations are at risk of inbreeding depression (Winder 2004). Extremely reduced gene flow among populations results in most of the genetic variation being distributed among populations (Winder 2004). Center for Research and Endangered Wildlife (CREW) has successfully developed a propagation protocol via tissue culture. An experimental population was established in the Daniel Boone National Forest (Kentucky) from material propagated by the CREW lab.

Matthew Albrecht & Kimberly McCue
  • 01/01/2010

Some measures, such as constructing guard rails around sensitive sites, have been taken in Pickett State Park. The majority of sites are at least partially within public ownership, including Pickett State Park and Pickett State Forest.

Matthew Albrecht & Kimberly McCue
  • 01/01/2010

Determine population dynamics, especially which life-history stage is most important for population growth. Determine what ecological processes (e.g., dispersal, historical, or niche limitation) limit the distribution of this species in unoccupied and occupied rockhouse shelters. Conduct pollination ecology studies to determine whether plants are obligate outcrossers.

Matthew Albrecht & Kimberly McCue
  • 01/01/2010

Continue to develop seed bank and determine the viability of seeds in long-term storage. Develop educational materials to inform the public about the status of the species.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Minuartia cumberlandensis
Authority (B.E. Wofford & Kral) McNeill
Family Caryophyllaceae
CPC Number 13821
ITIS 19989
USDA MICU3
Common Names Cumberland Sandwort | Cumberland Stitchwort
Associated Scientific Names Minuartia cumberlandensis | Arenaria cumberlandensis
Distribution Found only in one county in Kentucky and five counties in Tennessee, all of which are part of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. The entire distribution spans an area < 45 km in diameter (Win
State Rank
State State Rank
Kentucky S1
Tennessee S2
Habitat

Minuartia cumberlandensis occurs on shaded, fine-grained, sandy floors of """"rockhouses,"""" sandstone ledges, and solution pockets of the Pottsville Formation in Tennessee (Wofford and Kral 1979, Wofford and Smith 1980). This unique habitat is shared with few other plant species.

Ecological Relationships

Flowering phenology: May Aug. Fruiting phenology: Sept. Nov.Plants are probably self-incompatible (Winder 2004).Dispersal is highly localized, as seedlings are typically distributed adjacent to previously reproductive adults (Winder 2004).Seed viability appears to be high in natural populations (Winder 2004). M. cumberlandensis has a narrow ecological niche requiring cool temperatures, perpetually moist sand, and deep shade.Associated species include: Silene rotundifolia, Thalictrum clavatum, Heuchera parviflora, and Ageratina luciae-brauniae (USFWS 1996)

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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