Spreading avens, a rare plant that thrives in Western North Carolina — at elevations of more than 4,000 feet — is in danger of extinction.

To help preserve and protect this federally endangered plant, whose scientific name is Geum radiatum, Appalachian State University’s Dr. Matt Estep has begun a five-year study to examine the genetic diversity and sustainability of populations located at Roan Mountain. The 2020–25 project is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Part of the rose family, Geum radiatum is a perennial herb, growing to more than 20 inches and blooming bright yellow flowers from June through September. The plant is native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains and found only on high-elevation mountain peaks in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.

According to Estep, a plant geneticist and associate professor in App State’s Department of Biology, the plant species is vulnerable to extinction due in part to climate change, land development and outdoor recreation.

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