Sapphire Rockcress - Center For Plant Conservation
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Plant Profile

Sapphire Rockcress (Boechera fecunda)

View of a single specimen. Note the unbranched flower stalk. Photo Credit: Carol Dawson
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Brassicaceae
  • State: MT
  • Nature Serve ID: 159353
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/09/1992

Arabis fecunda is a small perennial forb with clusters of basal leaves. Flowering stalks reach up to 12 inches in height and produce small white flowers during the month of May. This Montana endemic was first discovered in 1975 by Jaculyn Cory of Hamilton. It occurs on an unusual soil type in very sparse azonal vegetation. These sites are being rapidly invaded by the aggressive introduced weed, Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed). Arabis fecunda can be distinguished from other Arabis in Montana by the nearly erect fruits, densely grayish covering of branched hairs on the foliage and fruits, and the two different types of basal leaves. (Lesica 1985)

Where is Sapphire Rockcress (Boechera fecunda) located in the wild?


This species occurs in open, rocky, eroding slopes in the foothills and montane zones between lower treeline and shrub/grasslands (elevation 1280 - 2426 meters) (Schassberger 1990). Soils are sandy, light-colored, highly calcareous, and derived from metamorphosed calcium silicate parent materials. Sites are usually sparsely vegetated and distinctive in relation to the surrounding area (erosion and a dry, warm microclimate probably help maintain this open habitat). Scattered Pseudotsuga menziesii and Pinus ponderosa are often present. (Lesica 1985)


Southwestern Montana (Lesica and Shelly 1992)

States & Provinces:

Sapphire Rockcress can be found in Montana

Which CPC Partners conserve Sapphire Rockcress (Boechera fecunda)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

  • 10/02/2020
  • Genetic Research

The University of Montana-Missoula, Division of Biological Sciences - Graduate student John Mckay studied the electrophoretic variation, ecological genetics, and physiological adaption to local microclimate of this species (Mckay 2001).

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

An edaphically restricted Montana endemic known from 20 occurrences in a small geographic area. A large part of this species' habitat is threatened by spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), an aggressive, introduced weed.

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010

Threats include: Competition with introduced spotted knapweed, Centaurea maculosa (Lesica and Shelly 1996) Trampling associated with grazing (Schassberger 1990) Mining (Schassberger 1990).

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010

Approximately 20 populations exist in the wild (average population size = 1000), distributed across three mountain ranges; the Sapphires, East Pioneers, and Highlands (NatureServe 2001).

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010

Montana Natural Heritage Program - demography and life history (NatureServe 2001). The University of Montana-Missoula, Division of Biological Sciences - Graduate student John Mckay studied the electrophoretic variation, ecological genetics, and physiological adaption to local microclimate of this species (Mckay 2001).

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010

Management practices include: long-term monitoring of populations and Spotted knapweed removal.

Carol Dawson
  • 01/01/2010

Management needs include continued monitoring of populations and searches for new populations. Conservation efforts would be aided by research of all aspects of this species life history traits.


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Taxon Boechera fecunda
Authority (Rollins) Dorn
Family Brassicaceae
CPC Number 7632
ITIS 823199
Common Names bitterroot rockcress | Sapphire rockcress | Mt. Sapphire rockcress
Associated Scientific Names Arabis fecunda | Boechera fecunda
Distribution Southwestern Montana (Lesica and Shelly 1992)
State Rank
State State Rank
Montana S2
Ecological Relationships

The presence of cryptogamic soil crust is beneficial to some populations. Soil crusts are often important contributors to nitrogen fixation, reducing soil erosion, and improving water penetration and retention. In a study done by Lesica and Shelly (1992), reproductive, older plants were over represented in plots containing cryptogamic soil crusts while younger, smaller plants were underrepresented. Crust formation appears to lead to a higher survival rate of older Arabis fecunda.


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