Morphology, Geographic Distribution, and Conservation of the Southern Appalachian Endemic

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Taxonomic recognition of Solidago lancifolia (Torrey & A. Gray) Chapman and diagnostic characters used for identification have vacillated among floras and treatments. Fieldwork greatly expanded the specimen base in US herbaria, extended the known range in Tennessee, and identified new occurrences in North Carolina and Virginia. A morphometric analysis of herbarium specimens identified qualitative and quantitative characters unambiguously diagnostic for S. lancifolia. These included the presence of glands on the phyllaries; long, wide-diameter rhizomes; thick stems; and a long pappus on disk florets. Using these characters, an analysis of herbarium specimens corrected widespread misidentifications and showed that S. lancifolia is strictly endemic to a 12-county region encompassing the high elevations (> 1,400 m) in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, northwestern North Carolina, and northeastern Tennessee. Based on the narrow geographic range and small population sizes, prior uncertainty of the taxonomic validity and geographic range of S. lancifolia has been resolved. Consequently, for North Carolina and Virginia, the recommendation is for an upgrade in the conservation status to “Endangered” with a state rank of “S1.” Moreover, the narrow geographic range and small number of populations are consistent with a global rank of “G2” and consideration as a federal Species of Concern.