CPC Plant Profile: Spreading Avens
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Plant Profile

Spreading Avens (Geum radiatum)

This shot shows the plant with its basal rosette of leaves and bright yellow flowers. Photo Credit: William S. Justice
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • State: GSM, NC, TN, TVA
  • Nature Serve ID: 129612
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/05/1993

Spreading avens is a rare endemic found on a few mountaintops in the Southern Appalachians. This species has received a great deal of attention over the past few decades from government organizations and conservationists who have called attention to the problems facing its continued survival. Several of the remaining populations are managed on public land now and one of the privately owned populations is on Nature Conservancy land and is partially protected. This plant produces bright yellow flowers from June to September and the potential to be cultivated for ornamental use. Unfortunately it has also been collected from the wild at least twice which further endangers this species. Another potential threat is that the coniferous forests that are adjacent to the cliffs where this species is found are dying from the combined effect of an exotic weevil infestation and air pollution. No one knows how this will impact the rare species in these areas.

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Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 12/03/2021
  • Reintroduction

The eight plant species studied form the nucleus of a plant community found only on exposed rock outcrops on isolated mountain summits and high ridges in the Southern Appalachians. Plants are distributed in distinct patches embedded in a matrix, or at least remnants, of heath bald or grassy bald. Threats to the population of these species varies from site to site and include visitor trampling, rock climbing, residential development and changes in surrounding vegetation. The objectives of this study were to restore denuded habitat patches, test hypotheses about species’ microhabitats and community dynamics, and to explore the feasibility of creating populations on exposed rock along the Blue Ridge Parkway. [Only descriptive results of the first objective were included in this citation.]

Center for Plant Conservation
  • 12/03/2021
  • Demographic Research

The eight plant species studied form the nucleus of a plant community found only on exposed rock outcrops on isolated mountain summits and high ridges in the Southern Appalachians. Plants are distributed in distinct patches embedded in a matrix, or at least remnants, of heath bald or grassy bald. Threats to the population of these species varies from site to site and include visitor trampling, rock climbing, residential development and changes in surrounding vegetation. The objectives of this study were to restore denuded habitat patches, test hypotheses about species’ microhabitats and community dynamics, and to explore the feasibility of creating populations on exposed rock along the Blue Ridge Parkway. [Only descriptive results of the first objective were included in this citation.]

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Occurs on exposed northwest-facing cliffs and heath balds on isolated mountaintops over 1,300 m in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. There are about 15 populations with about 36 subpopulations. Three populations are extirpated (2 populations thought to be extirpated were rediscovered). The species has low seed and primarily spreads by rhizomes. Threats to this species include trampling, rock climbing, development, acid rain, and over collection. At many sites, threats have been minimized.

  • 01/01/2010

Trampling and soil compaction by tourists Encroachment by shrubs Recreational development (USFWS 1990)

  • 01/01/2010

There are eleven sites remaining although five additional populations are known to have gone extinct recently. Seven of the extant populations have less than fifty individuals and three have fewer than ten. (USFWS 1990)

  • 01/01/2010

In 1980, S.W. Morgan wrote a status summary for this species using information from a survey of five of the fifteen populations that were thought to exist during the late 1970s. (Morgan 1980) In the late 1980s and 1990s Hamrick and Godt compared allozyme genetic diversity to population sizes in this species and found a positive correlation between them (Hamrick and Godt 1997). Paterson and Snyder published a study (1999) that gave genetic evidence to support the taxonomic designation of this species as separate from G. peckii. Dr. Bart R. Johnson, Associate Professor in the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Oregon in Eugene, has been researching the ecological aspects of this species (with a number of manuscripts in preparation, including (Johnson In Prep.)). Dalenia S. Medford, a graduate student at East Tennessee State University, completed a Masters Thesis on this species in August 2001. (Medford 2001) This study investigated population level variation in this and another rare species across a time span of 150 years.

  • 01/01/2010

In 1997 a study was done on Mt. LeConte to determine the impact of visitor patterns on the high elevation vegetation including this species and a restoration project for this species was initiated. (Rock 1997).

  • 01/01/2010

The red spruce forests controlled by the U.S. Forest Service are regularly sprayed with an insecticide, Lindane. A study is needed to determine if there are short-term and/or long-term effects of this practice on G. radiatum (Morgan 1980) Continued restoration of areas in GSMNP including supplementing populations with seedlings germinated ex situ.

  • 01/01/2010

Public education is needed, especially in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) where tourists are inadvertently trampling this plant.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Geum radiatum
Authority Michx.
Family Rosaceae
CPC Number 2023
ITIS 24658
USDA GERA2
Common Names Appalachian avens | cliff avens | spreading avens
Associated Scientific Names Geum radiatum | Acomastylis radiata | Sieversia radiata | Geum odoratissimum
Distribution Western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee (Hamrick and Godt 1996)
State Rank
State State Rank
Great Smokies P1
North Carolina S2
Tennessee S1
Tennessee Valley Authority S
Habitat

Open, exposed high elevation cliffs, outcrops, steep slopes and gravelly talus associated with cliffs with shallow acidic soils. (Hamrick and Godt 1996)Associated species include Leiophyllum buxifolium, Menziesia pilosa, Rhododendron catawbiense, Aster spp., Carex spp., Solidago spp., Heuchera villosa, Saxifraga michauxii, and various grass species. The cliffs that this species inhabits are often adjacent to red spruce (Picea rubens) dominated coniferous forests. (USFWS 1990)

Ecological Relationships

None known.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Floral Visitor Link
Flies
Root-maggot flies Hylemya aestiva Confirmed Pollinator Link
Longlegged flies Chrysoltus costalis Confirmed Pollinator Link
Flies Floral Visitor Link
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting
University of Georgia North Carolina Reintroduction 1990

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