CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Geum peckii


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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Geum peckii

Common Names: 
mountain avens, white-mountain avens
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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 Fish & WildLife

Geum peckiienlarge
Image Owner: New England Wildflower Society

Geum peckii is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Elizabeth J. Farnsworth contributed to this Plant Profile.

Geum peckii

This alpine-boreal member of the Rose family can be found growing along mountain streams and rocky wet meadows, as well as bogs and sphagnum-moss depressions. Known from only two places in the world -- the Presidential Mountain Range of New Hampshire, and Digby County in Nova Scotia -- the species is considered something of a glacial relict. It is threatened by encroaching forest succession, and its habitat is likely to shrink further as the climate warms. Road ditching, an expanding gull rookery, and home-building along with a rising tide of ecotourism threaten the Canadian populations.

Research and Management Summary:
A number of individuals and institutions have studied a number of different aspects of this species. Management activities are planned for a Canada population of Geum peckii, but have yet to be implemented as of 2001. The New England Wild Flower Society monitors populations of this species.

Plant Description:
Geum peckii is an herbaceous, compact perennial, growing only 20 to 40 cm tall. Several small, compound leaves, consisting of up to 6 tiny leaflets and one larger, rounded terminal leaflet, cluster around its base. The flowering stalk, appearing June to September, bears 1 to 5 spreading, yellow flowers 1 to 3 cm across.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
  New Hampshire
State Range of  Geum peckii
  Geum peckii occupies two types of habitat: mountainous wet meadows and stream-sides in the high mountains of New Hampshire, and bogs and wet depressions at sea level along the coast of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Soils in both areas are damp, with only a shallow organic layer. In the mountains, snow and ice persist well into the growing season and high winds inhibit the growth of other vegetation (Harshberger 1929, Brackley-Tolman 2001). Montane populations grow at 1200-1830 m elevation; descending to sub-alpine elevations (425-760 m) along high-gradient streams, especially at open cascades (NatureServe 2001). This species is thought to have colonized open, mineral-soil habitats as the Pleistocene glaciers retreated, and now is restricted to cold, moist, exposed depressions where competition with other species is minimal (Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001). Geum peckii is classified as an obligate wetland plant of the northeast United States (USDA Plants National Database 2001).

  Geum peckii is known only from three counties in New Hampshire (USDA Plants National Database 2001) and two sites in Nova Scotia. Although Gleason and Cronquist (1991: 248) state that G. peckii extends to the "higher mountains of Maine," this is unsubstantiated.

Number Left
  28 extant populations in northern New Hampshire (9 others are historic; known before 1982 only); estimated as between 1000 to 3000 plants, according to G2 rank
2 extant populations in Nova Scotia, one on Brier Island (several hundred stems in several sub-populations) and one newly discovered on nearby Digby Neck with 300 to 500 stems.


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Canada (Nova Scotia) E 11/1/2001  
  New Hampshire S2 T 1/1/1998  
  Nova Scotia S2 E 5/23/1991  
  United States N2 3/22/1989  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  Geum peckii shows many adaptive characteristics shared with other alpine perennials. Its compact architecture; small, pinnate leaves; coarse rhizome; and hairy stems keep it firmly rooted and minimize exposure to desiccating winds and harsh sun. Its cup-like flowers act like solar collectors, and adjust their position continually to follow the sun as it moves across the sky (Brackley-Tolman 2001). This action maximizes warmth inside the flower and creates energy for flowering and seed production; it may also help to attract pollinators.
John Burger and Frankie Brackley-Tolman (University of New Hampshire) have identified flies as the primary pollinators of Geum peckii in the New Hampshire mountains. The plants are also capable of limited self-pollination, though seed set is boosted by insect pollination.

Geum peckii differs from other alpine perennials of the White Mountains in several aspects of its physiology (Hadley and Bliss 1964). Its photosynthetic efficiency increases at higher temperatures, and it shows little photosynthetic saturation at low light levels. It shows high respiration rates, and low shoot caloric and protein values relative to other species in the area. These features may help to explain why it needs comparatively high levels of light exposure, as well as its distribution in warm microenvironments of the alpine (Hadley and Bliss 1964).

  Climatic change, which is projected to promote increased forest cover in boreal regions, may eliminate open habitat for this and other arctic-alpine species (Kutner 1994, Kimball and Weihrauch 2000)
Encroaching trees and shrubs threaten one bog on Brier Island (COSEWIC 2001)
Ditching for roads has lowered water levels in bogs and boosted recruitment by upland plants that shade out G. peckii (Keddy 1986)
Recreational activities, especially inadvertent trampling by hikers, has the potential to inflict serious damage on this species. Populations occur in relatively remote areas of New Hampshire, but trail placement must be sensitive to the locations of the plants (Mollan 1999). Ecotourism is increasing in Nova Scotia and may threaten G. peckii at its few Nova Scotia locations (Keddy 1986, COSEWIC 2001)
A gull rookery is expanding on Brier Island in Nova Scotia; birds trample plants, import weed seeds into the area, and contribute to nutrient-loading (Keddy 1986, COSEWIC 2001)
Habitat alteration and water withdrawal may accompany accelerated home-building near Nova Scotia populations of G. peckii in future (COSEWIC 2001)
Over-collection may also pose a threat to this species.

Current Research Summary
  Pollination studies by Dr. John Burger, University of New Hampshire, Department of Entomology
Jenny Smedmark and Torston Eriksson of the University of Stockholm, Sweden, are studying nuclear ribosomal ITS and other sequences, as well as morphological characters, in hopes of resolving inter- and intra-generic taxonomic problems within the Geum clade and allied Rosaceae (Smedmark and Eriksson 1998).
Hadley and Bliss (1964) conducted extensive comparative studies of the ecophysiology of alpine species in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, including G. peckii.
Other studies of related alpine congeners may be helpful for understanding the biology of this rare plant (e.g., Baskin 1985, Chambers 1991, Manuel 1999).

The New England Wild Flower Society has also determined through germination trials that dried or refrigerated seed will germinate well when sowed outdoors. NEWFS has collected seed several times from various populations. This expands on the 1934 work of Nichols, who used found through seed germination trials that Geum peckii appears to require a period of exposure to winter temperatures. These trials also showed very low germination rates (<5% of 300 seeds tested).

Current Management Summary
  In 1987, The Nature Conservancy Canada purchased the area on Brier Island containing the Geum peckii population. Although a management plan was commissioned by the Brier Island Management Committee, no management activities have been undertaken to date (COSEWIC 2001).
Volunteer task forces of the New England Plant Conservation Program of The New England Wild Flower Society (Framingham, Massachusetts) monitor populations of Geum peckii in New Hampshire.
Plants of Geum peckii have been cultivated at Garden in the Woods (NEWFS, Framingham, Massachusetts) for approximately 20 years.

Research Management Needs
  Determine environmental factors that limit successful recruitment of seedlings; Geum peckii does not occupy much of its available habitat and it is of interest to determine why
Effects of projected climate change (especially increased mean annual temperature, earlier snowmelt, and increased UV exposure) on plant ecophysiology and fitness
Trials in which the canopy over Geum peckii is opened by removing trees and shrubs
Methods of protecting plants from gull activity need to be devised

Ex Situ Needs
  Ex situ techniques for cultivation are relatively well-established for this species.


Conference Proceedings

Smedmark, J.; Eriksson, T. Geum and relatives (Rosaceae, Rosoideae), probable cases of bi-directional concerted evolution following allopolyploid speciation -- an interpretation based on nuclear ribosomal ITS and preliminary morpholological data. Annual Meeting of the Botanical Society of America; Baltimore, Maryland, USA. 1998.

Electronic Sources

Brackley-Tolman, F. (2001). The Alpine Garden, Mount Washington, New Hampshire. New England Wild Flower Society, Framingham, Massachusetts. http://www.newfs.org/powerofplace/alpine.html. Accessed: 2002.

COSEWIC. (2001). Species at Risk. [Web site] Environment Canada; Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/species/English/Default.cfm. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Baskin, J.M. 1985. Role of dispersal date and changes in physiological responses controlling timing of germination in achenes of Geum canadense. Canadian Journal of Botany. 63: 1654-1658.

Chambers, J.L. 1991. Patterns of growth and reproduction in a perennial tundra forb (Geum rossii): effects of clone area and neighborhood. Canadian Journal of Botany. 69: 1977-1983.

Fonda, R.W.; Bliss, L.C. 1966. Annual carbohydrate cycle of alpine plants on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 93: 268-277.

Hadley, E.B.; Bliss, L.C. 1964. Energy relationships of alpine plants of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Ecological Monographs. 34: 331-357.

Harshberger, J.W. 1929. Preliminary notes on American snow patches and their plants. Ecology. 10: 275-281.

Keddy, P.A.; Wisheu, I.C. 1989. Ecology, biogeography, and conservation of coastal plain plants: some general principles from the study of Nova Scotian wetlands. Rhodora. 91: 72-94.

Kimball, K.D.; Weihrauch, D.M. 2000. Alpine vegetation communities and the alpine-treeline ecotone boundary in New England as biomonitors for climate change. USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-3.2000. 3: 93-100.

Manuel, N. 1999. Protection against photoinhibition in the alpine plant Geum montanum. Oecologia. 119: 149-158.

Mollan, M.C. 1999. Conservationist's Notebook Section: Appalachian Mountain Club: More Than Just Happy Trails. The American Gardner.

Nichols, G.E. 1934. The influence of exposure to winter temperatures upon seed germination in various native American plants. Ecology. 15: 364-373.

Paterson, I.G.; Snyder, M. 1999. Genetic evidence supporting the taxonomy of Geum peckii (Rosaceae) and G. radiatum as separate species. Rhodora. 101, 908: 325-340.

Sperduto, D.D. 1997. Alpine. New England Wild Flower Notes. 1, 3: 6,8,11.

USFWS. 1976. Proposed Endangered Status for 1700 U.S. Plants. Federal Register. 41: 24523-24572.


Keddy, C. 1986. Status report on the Eastern mountain avens, Geum peckii, in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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