CPC Plant Profile: Shale Barren Rockcress
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Plant Profile

Shale Barren Rockcress (Boechera serotina)

  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Brassicaceae
  • State: VA, WV
  • Nature Serve ID: 142676
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/08/1989

Shale Barren rock cress (Arabis serotina) is an erect flowering biennial or facultative biennial herb characterized by an inconspicuous basal rosette of lobed leaves. In its reproductive stage, the basal leaves shrivel as the slender stem grows, or "bolts", and the inflorescence develops. Mature plants are 41 to 97 cm. tall (USFWS 1991). It is endemic to the mid-Appalachian shale barrens of West Virginia and Virginia where it is restricted to certain hot and dry shale-covered slopes of the Ridge and Valley Physiographic Province that contain sparse, scrubby growth of oaks, pines, and junipers (Bartgis 1987; Harmon and McDonald 1990). It grows anywhere from 41 to 97 cm in height and the whitish flowers are produced from June to September (USFWS 1991). Shale Barren rock cress, one of the most restricted shale barren endemics, is known from only 60 populations totaling fewer than 1000 individuals (NatureServe 2001). It was listed as a Federally Endangered Species on August 8, 1989. A. serotina is very similar to Arabis laevigata var. burkii but is distinguished by having a later flowering time and differences in various morphometric habits (Wieboldt 1987).

Participating Institutions
Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A narrow endemic known only from shale barren regions of Virginia and West Virginia; one of the most restricted shale barren endemics. Less than 60 occurrences are believed extant, most of these made up of fewer than 50 individuals; there are perhaps fewer than 4,000 plants altogether. Most occurrences are on public lands. predominantly National Forests. Because of the highly stressful nature of shale barrens environments, this species is not believed to be capable of tolerating much additional disturbance. Threats include road/trail construction and maintenance, erosion, inundation resulting from flood control measures, deer browsing, competition from exotic plants, and declines of its pollinators due to the spraying of Dimilin and BT insecticides for gypsy moth control.

  • 01/01/2010

Insecticide spraying for control of gypsy moths with Dimlin has a potentially devastating effect on the pollinators of A. serotina (USFWS 1991). Habitat loss has occurred as a result of road construction, railroad construction, hiking trails, and dam

  • 01/01/2010

34 extant populations; most under 100 plants, and many contain fewer than 10 individuals (USFWS 1991)

  • 01/01/2010

An extensive research program is underway in Virginia to study the life history through six intensively studied populations. Contact: Garrie Ralph, 1943 Kings Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060. The West Virginia Natural Heritage Program is currently conducting a five-year study on the demography of a population occurring on a federal property in West Virginia. Contact: P. J. Harmon, West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, Department of Natural Resources, P.O. box 67, Elkins, WV 26241. Telephone No. (304) 637-0245.

  • 01/01/2010

All Virginia populations occur on public land and are offered protection. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is responsible for monitoring all Virginia populations.

  • 01/01/2010

Current research efforts should provide information necessary to formulate conservation needs.

  • 01/01/2010

Seed collection from all populations not represented in collection.


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Taxon Boechera serotina
Authority (E.S. Steele) Windham & Al-Shehbaz
Family Brassicaceae
CPC Number 194
ITIS 823023
Common Names shale-barren rockcress
Associated Scientific Names Arabis serotina | Boechera serotina
Distribution Appalachian shale barrens in western Virginia and eastern West Virginia (USFWS 1991)
State Rank
State State Rank
Virginia S2
West Virginia S2

Shale barrens (USFWS 1991)

Ecological Relationships

This plant species is adapted to the harsh xeric conditions of Appalachian shale barrens. These barrens occur on eroding shale formations with a steep slope and southern aspect. The harsh surface conditions of the area are likely an important factor for germination and seedling establishment (USFWS 1991). Populations are generally small (less than 20 individuals) and have been noted to fluctuate considerably. Pollinators include bees of the genera Apis, Halictus and Adrena and syrphid flies (USFWS 1991, NatureServe 2001).

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Syrphid flies Syrphid flies Floral Visitor Link

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