Endemic to summits in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. There are 21 extant occurrences, with about 3,000 individuals in total. Several occurrences have been showing serious declines due in part to heavy recreational use of the rocky cliffs where they grow. To augment the populations, volunteers have planted nearly 3,000 seedlings, grown from seeds collected from the wild populations. Also, new overlook and trail facilities have been designed to avoid the plants. Q following the numeric global rank indicates taxonomic questions.
The principal threat to this species is trampling by outdoor enthusiasts (Gaddy 1983). Another potential threat is acid precipitation and other forms of atmospheric pollution (USFWS 1989). The forest service, park service, or the Nature Conservancy protec
There are only seven known sites supporting Hellers Blazing Star, several of which are quite small. The smallest has less than a dozen plants. (USFWS 1989)
Little research has been done on Hellers Blazing Star, Liatris helleri, and information from work on other related species has been used as a surrogate until L. helleri can be better studied. Work on L. aspera and L. spicata indicates that disturbance might be necessary for the maintenance of these early successional species (Kerster 1968; Roberts et al. 1977). Work on L. cylindracea showed that human trampling was detrimental and that only natural disturbances had a positive effect (Bowles and Maun 1982). In a study on L. pycnostachya, Schall (1978) found that small populations attracted few pollinators. This information may prove important as several of the L. helleri populations are quite small (USFWS 1989).
Dr. Zack Murrell and his students at Appalachian State University are conducting demographic and reproductive biology studies. Some monitoring plots have been established in especially sensitive locations (USFWS 1989).
At high traffic Hellers Blazing Star sites, trails have been diverted and boardwalks built to help prevent trampling.
Seedlings produced in genetic experiments have been returned to the sites from which seeds were collected.
Very little is known of the population biology or life history of Hellers Blazing Star. Studies on abiotic factors affecting populations as well as on pollination, competition, the effects of trampling, and of acid rain should be undertaken as well (USFWS 1989).
Long term protection should be sought for populations on privately owned land.
Seed collections from populations not represented in collection
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