CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Spiraea virginiana

Copyright Hugh and Carol Nourse

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Spiraea virginiana

Common Names: 
Virginia spiraea, West Virginia spiraea
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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Spiraea virginianaenlarge
Photographer: Copyright Hugh and Carol Nourse

Spiraea virginianaenlarge
Photographer: Copyright Hugh and Carol Nourse

Spiraea virginiana is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Irina Kadis contributed to this Plant Profile.

Spiraea virginiana

The West Virginia spiraea is an endemic of the southern Appalachians, which occurs exclusively in the southern Blue Ridge and Appalachian Plateau provinces. Within its area, it is found very sporadically. It was first collected by G. R. Vasey in 1878 in the mountains of North Carolina. (Vasey identified it as S. corymbosa Raf.; Britton later annotated those specimens as S. virginiana.) This 2 to 6-ft-tall shrub with arching and upright stems is a prolific sprouter, forming dense clumps. Its leaves are alternate and variable in size, shape, and degree of serration. Cream to greenish-yellow colored flowers occur in branched, flat-topped inflorescences approximately four to eight inches wide.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
North Carolina
West Virginia
State Range of  Spiraea virginiana
  S. virginiana can be found on banks of rocky streams or moist bottomlands within high gradient sections of second and third order streams (USFWS 1989, 1990, 1992) However, the sites where the plants occur are areas of deposition after high water flows rather than places of maximum erosion.

The species has root system and vegetative parts that allow it to thrive under appropriate disturbance regimes.
The underground part of the plant is a fine fibrous root mass and heavy lateral rhizomes. These features probably help it survive during floods when larger, heavier arboreal species as well as many vines and herbs are washed away. The belowground portions of S. virginiana left after floods are usually able to regenerate the clone.

  S. virginiana is currently known from West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia (USFWS 1990, 1992).

Number Left
  S. virginiana is known from 24 populations from 23 streams in six states (USFWS 1990).


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

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Georgia S1 T 7/27/2002  
  Kentucky T 1/1/2000  
  North Carolina S1 E 1/1/2002  
  Pennsylvania SX PX 6/11/2002  
  Tennessee S2 E 4/3/2001  
  Virginia S1 E 5/1/2002  
  West Virginia S1 6/1/2000  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  S. virginiana competes with the invasive species Rosa multiflora and Spiraea japonica, which are both plants that have similar vegetative habits, but are prolific reproducers (USFWS 1992).
Flowers are visited by a variety of insects, particularly beetles (USFWS 1992). This species, however, relies mostly on asexual reproduction (USFWS 1992).
Aphids can be abundant and moved across plant parts by ants; lady bug beetles have been noted to feed on these aphids (USFWS 1992).

  Overtopping by arboreal species or fast growing herbs or vines may eventually eliminate the species. Competition seems to be the most important variable related to the persistence of S. virginiana and partially explains its occurrence in specific riverine habitats (USFWS 1990, 1992).
Human disturbance at several site locations: two proposed hydroelectric facilities; dams; farm field clearing; right-of-way maintenance.
Run-off debris.

Current Research Summary
  Gradually, researchers came to a consensus on how to resolve the large phenotypic variability seen in S. virginiana. Glencoe (1961) was the first one to articulate it. He also included a wider range of localities adding Dade Co. (GA) and Van Buren Co. (TN). As for the locations excluded by Clarkson, he never stated his opinion on those.
Recently (1986-1991), Douglas Ogle from Highlands Community College, Abingdon, VA has contributed to the study of the species. He examined all of the known sites, took samples and photographs, and shared the obtained population information with the Natural Heritage program within each state. He also forwarded the representative material from each live population to the Arnold Arboretum for propagation/conservation under the auspices of Plant Conservation. Through the study of live and herbarium material, he managed to discriminate between S. virginiana and S. betulifolia var. corymbosa and summarized his observation in the comparison table (see notes below).
A. Rehder (1920) described S. virginiana var. serrulata, but in 1949 he reduced the rank to form.

Current Management Summary
  There is no formal management plan.

Research Management Needs
  In its Recovery Plan, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1992) outline conservation needs in the following order: preserve, understand, extend knowledge and monitor populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider delisting when at least three populations are sufficiently protected and stable, when additional population searches have been conducted, when representative genotypes are cultivated in permanent collections.

Ex Situ Needs


Books (Single Authors)

Ogle, D.W. 1991. Virginia's endangered species: Proceedings of a symposium. Blacksburg, VA: McDonald and Woodward Publishing Co.

Stine, S.J., Jr. 1993. Inventory for Virginia Spiraea (Spiraea virginiana Britton) in Ohio, Project No. E-2-1, Study No. 204. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Strausbaugh, P.D.; Core, E.L. 1978. Flora of West Virginia. Grantsville, West Virginia: Seneca Books, Incorporated. 1079p.

Von Bargen, E.; Coles, J.; Denham, M.; Jennings, W.; Martin, S.C.; Richards, V.; Steinkamp, M. 1997. Rare Plants of Colorado. Helena, Montana: Falcon Press. Prepared by the Colorado Native Plant Society.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Conference Proceedings

Anders, C.M.; Drozda, N.; Murrell, Z.E. Genotypic and phenotypic variation in Spiraea virginiana Britton. Annual Meeting of the Botanical Society of America: Systematics Section/American Society of Plant Taxonomists; 2-6 August, 1998; Baltimore, MD. 1998.

Murrell, Z.E.; Anders, C.M.; Williams, F.; Estep, M. Biogeographical implications of genetic structure in Spiraea virginiana: Cumberland Plateau as a Pleistocene refugium?. Botany 2002. Botany in the Curriculum: Integrating Research and Teaching; August 2-7, 2002; University of Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin. 2002.

Electronic Sources

(2002). NC-ES Plant profiles. [Web pages] North Carolina Ecological Services--U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services--Southeast Region 4. http://nc-es.fws.gov/plant/plant.html. Accessed: 2002.

WVDNR. (1998). Endangered Species Profiles. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. http://www.dnr.state.wv.us/wvwildlife/endangered.htm. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Anders C.M.; Murrell, Z.E. 2001. Morphological, molecular, and biogeographical variation within the imperiled virginia Spiraea. Castanea. 66, 1-2: 24-41.

Britton, N.L. 1890. New or Noteworthy North American Phanerogams-III. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanic Club. 17: 314.

Clarkson, R.B. 1959. The West Virginia Spiraea. Castanea. 24, 4: 143-146.

Estill, J.C.; Murrell, Z.E. 1995. Species Delineation and Population Structure of Spiraea virginiana Britton (Abstract). Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Science. 57, 1: 52-53.

Ogle, D.W. 1991a. Spiraea virginiana Britton: I. Delineation and distribution. Castanea. 56, 4: 287-296.

Ogle, D.W. 1991b. Spiraea virginiana Britton: II. Ecology and species biology. Castanea. 56, 4: 297-303.

Rehder, A. 1920. New Species, Varieties, and Combinations from the Herbarium and the Collections of the Arnold Arboretum. Journal Arnold Arboretum. 1: 260-261.

Shaw, J.; Wofford, B.E. 2003. Woody plants of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee and Kentucky and floristic comparison of selected Southern Appalachian woody floras. Castanea. 68: 119-134.

USFWS. 1989. Proposed Threatened Status for Spiraea virginiana (Virginia spiraea). Federal Register. 54, 139: 30577-30581.

USFWS. 1990. Threatened Status Determined for Spiraea virginiana (Virginia Spiraea). Federal Register. 55, 116: 24241-24246.

Wieboldt, T. 1986. Spiraea virginiana Britton: New to the Virginia flora. Jeffersonia. 17, 4: 42-49.

Wiesner, M.B. 1994. Virginia spirea. American Horticulturist. 73: 9.


2000. Biological Assessment for Threatened and Endangered Species on the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia. Milwaukee, WI: USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region. p.141.

2000. Survey for Spiraea virginiana along the Cheoah River from Santeetlah dam to the Little Tennessee River, Graham County, North Carolina. prepared for Alcoa Power Generating, Inc. Tapoco Division--Alcoa, Tennessee, by Fish and Wildlife Associates, Inc.--Whittier, NC. p.10. Report.

Bartgis, R.L. 1987. Status surveys in West Virginia for Carex polymorpha, Spiraea virginiana, Thalictrum steeleanum. Elkinns, West Virginia: W.V. Department of Natural Resources. p.1-4 + appendices. Unpublished report.

Rawinski, T.J. 1988. Final Status Report: The Distribution and Abundance of Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana). U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Sutter, R.D.; Frantz, V.; McCarthy, K.A. 1987. Atlas of rare and endangered plant species in North Carolina. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Dept. Agriculture, Plant Protection Section, Conservation Program. p.174.

USACE. 1995. Biological Assessment for Spiraea virginiana: Levisa Fork Project. Huntington, WV: US Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District.

USFWS. 1992. Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana Britton) recovery plan. Newton Corner, Massachusetts: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5. p.47.

Virginia Spiraea (Spiraea virginiana). Bell Museum of Natural History and the Office of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


Glencoe, J.F. Jr. 1961. Spiraea virginiana Britton: a rare southern Appalachian endemic. [M.S. thesis]: West Virginia Univ. Morgantown, WV.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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