Update: Endemic, Endangered Flower in GHSP

1 Nov

I announced a few weeks ago that an extremely rare and federally endangered flower was discovered growing on a rocky outcrop in the vicinity of one of the most popular bouldering areas in Grayson Highlands State Park. This flower has never been found growing in the State of Virginia before, and has previously been known to only twelve isolated mountaintops to the south. The Roan Mountain Bluet (Hedyotis purpurea var. Montana) is a member of the coffee family (Rubiaceae), and produces heterostylus flowers (flowers with styles of differing length).7398677978_042f95267e_z The Roan is a compact, clump forming perennial which produces flat topped clusters with 1 to 4 deep red-purple flowers that bloom from May to September.

The Roan Mountain bluet grows at relatively high elevations, especially for Appalachia (above 4,200 ft), in shallow soils and crevices of cliffs and rocky outcrops, and on thin rocky soils of grassy balds. This species prefers acidic soils and to grow in forests with Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) and red spruce (Picea rubens). If you have ever visited GHSP and taken note of the ecosystems there, you will no doubt realize that GHSP has all of the above, and plenty of it. The specific clusters that were found are living on an exposed rocky outcrop edge habitat, mostly in shallow soiled pockets.

As listed, the top threat listed for documented populations of the Roan Mountain bluet is: Trampling by Hikers and Climbers.

I made plans toRMap_02175 come up and assist with the recreational impact survey, and to help assess what boulders would need to be shut down to climbers if the population was found to be growing on established boulders, or boulders that may see impact in the future. While it would suck to lose a popular boulder such as The Hive, AVP, or Olympus, it would simply not compare to endangering such a beautiful and imperiled species such as the Roan Mountain bluet.

I got the recap of the initial population survey and the flowers were found to be growing primarily in a singular location, and not immediately threatened by the current scale of bouldering in the park. This does not mean however, that we as96313827_LXfV3sQl_RoanMounta_ontana climbers do not pose a threat. This shows that irresponsible, unneeded cleaning and climbing related damage to the fragile ecosystems in GHSP could do serious, and in the case of endemic and isolated species such as the Roan, irreversible harm. As boulderers, we too are hikers and should strive to tread lightly. Please do not remove or damage plant life in GHSP, or anywhere you climb for that matter. Enjoy the complex and astonishing ecosystems that we get the opportunity to experience in areas like GHSP, and respect it. Just getting the chance to be in a place that harbors fragile endemics and rare species such as this bluet is an incredible thing. The fact that we are allowed to climb in such a place as this is truly special.

One Response to “Update: Endemic, Endangered Flower in GHSP”


  1. Climbing the Highlands « Appalachian Voices - April 19, 2016

    […] plants and geology in order to be a responsible steward of the areas where he develops climbs. So, when an endangered flower, the Roan Mountain bluet, was unexpectedly discovered on a single rock face at Grayson, that boulder was immediately closed to […]

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