Virginia spiraea fact sheet (.pdf)

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					                                              U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

                                              Virginia Spiraea

The federal Endangered Species Act.           Why is Virginia spiraea so rare?              1620, more than 500 species, subspecies,
The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as        Due to its specific habitat requirements,     and varieties of our nation’s plants and
amended (Act), recognizes that many of        Virginia spiraea is also vulnerable to        animals have become extinct. By
our nation’s valuable plant and wildlife      alterations of stream- flow patter ns.        contrast, during the 3,000 years of the
resources have been lost and that other       Impoundments, road construction,              Pleistocene Ice Age, all of North America
species are close to extinction. The Act      unmanaged recreational use of river           lost only about 90 species.
provides a means to help preserve these       corridors, industrial development, lack of
species and their habitats for future         watershed management, and uncontrolled        All living things are part of a complex
generations. There are only 31 known          development of river corridors have           and interconnected network. The
populations of Virginia spiraea (Spiraea      already threatened and exterminated           removal of a single species can set off a
virginiana Britton) spread throughout         several populations of this species.          chain reaction that could affect many
seven states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife      Another threat to Virginia spiraea is         other species. For example, the loss of a
Service added this plant to the Federal       competition from exotic invasive plants.      single plant species can result in the
List of Endangered and Threatened                                                           disappearance of up to 30 other species of
Wildlife and Plants as a threatened           Why should we be concerned about the          animals and plants. Each plant and
species on June 15, 1990.                     loss of species?                              animal extinction diminishes the diversity
                                              Extinction is a natural process that has      and complexity of life on earth.
Description, habitat, and biology             been occurring since long before the
Virginia spiraea is a perennial shrub with    appearance of humans. Normally, new           Furthermore, wild plants and animals are
many branches. It grows 3 to 10 feet tall.    species develop (through a process known      important to the development of new and
Its alternate leaves are single-tooth         as speciation) at about the same rate as      improved medicines, agricultural crops,
serrated; are 1 to 6 inches long and 1 to 2   other species become extinct. However,        and other industrial products. One-fourth
inches wide; are occasionally curved; and     because of air and water pollution, forest    of all the prescriptions written in the
have a narrow, moderately tapered base.       clearing, loss of wetlands, and other         United States today contain chemicals
The leaves are also darker green above        human induced environmental changes,          that were originally discovered in plants
than below. The plant produces flowers        extinctions are now occurring at a rate       and animals. Industry and agriculture
that are yellowish green to pale white,       that far exceeds the speciation rate. Since   are increasingly making use of wild
with stamens twice the length of the          the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in       plants, seeking out the remaining wild
sepal. It blooms from late May to late                                                                   strains of many common
July, but flower production is                                                                           crops, such as wheat and
sparse and does not begin                                                                                corn, to produce hybrids that
until after the first year of                                                                            are more resistant to disease,
establishment. Virginia                                                                                  pests, and marginal climatic
spiraea has a clonal root                                                                                conditions. If these
system that can fragment and                                                                             organisms had been
produce more plants. This                                                                                destroyed before their values
form of vegetative                                                                                       were known, their secrets
reproduction is more common                                                                              would have died with them.
than flower pollination and                                                                              When a species is lost, the
seed dispersal.                                                                                          benefits it might have
                                                                                                         provided are gone forever.
Virginia spiraea occurs along
rivers and streams and relies
on periodic disturbances, such
as high-velocity scouring
floods, which eliminate
competition from trees and
other woody vegetation.
However, if the frequency and
intensity of these floods is too
great, the plant may become
dislodged and wash
downstream into less suitable
                                                U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

What you can do to help
■	 Tread lightly, and stay on designated
   trails. On some popular mountains,
   the vegetation has been virtually
   destroyed by human trampling.

■	 Visit arboretums, botanical gardens,
   and parks to learn all you can about
   endangered plants and the causes of
   their decline.

■	 Don’t collect or buy plants that have
   been gathered from wild populations.

■	 Participate in the protection of our
   remaining wild land and the
   restoration of damaged ecosystems.

■	 Be careful with the use and disposal
   of pesticides and other chemicals,
   especially near sensitive habitats.
   Wetlands and streams are
   particularly valuable habitats for
   many rare plants and animals; be
   careful not to alter their hydrology or
   allow polluting chemicals to drain
   into them.

■	 Recycle as much as you can. As
   landfills become full, new ones are
   often placed in uninhabited areas,
   causing the destruction of hundreds
   of acres of wild habitat.

Wild land and the plant and animal life
that inhabit unique natural places are
now dependent on us for survival. These
natural places, with their diversity of life,
can be enjoyed by and benefit all of us;
with our help, they can be there for            Virginia spiraea county distribution in North Carolina
future generations.

Prepared by:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Asheville Field Office
160 Zillicoa Street
Asheville, North Carolina 28801
828/258 3939