Arabis serotina - Steele
Shale Barren Rockcress
Other Common Names: shale barren rockcress
Synonym(s): Boechera serotina (Steele) Windham & Al-Shehbaz
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Arabis serotina Steele (TSN 184474)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.142676
Element Code: PDBRA06320
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Mustard Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Capparales Brassicaceae Arabis
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Arabis serotina
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2
Global Status Last Reviewed: 19Feb2009
Global Status Last Changed: 22Dec1992
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: A narrow endemic known only from shale barren regions of Virginia and West Virginia; one of the most restricted shale barren endemics. Less than 60 occurrences are believed extant, most of these made up of fewer than 50 individuals; there are perhaps fewer than 4,000 plants altogether. Most occurrences are on public lands. predominantly National Forests. Because of the highly stressful nature of shale barrens environments, this species is not believed to be capable of tolerating much additional disturbance. Threats include road/trail construction and maintenance, erosion, inundation resulting from flood control measures, deer browsing, competition from exotic plants, and declines of its pollinators due to the spraying of Dimilin and BT insecticides for gypsy moth control.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Virginia (S2), West Virginia (S2)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (13Jul1989)
Comments on USESA: Arabis serotina was proposed endangered on November 17, 1988 and determined endangered on July 13, 1989.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R5 - Northeast

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: A narrow endemic known only from shale barren regions of Virginia and West Virginia; one of the most restricted shale barren endemics. Occurrences have been documented in six Virginia counties (Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, Highland, Page, Rockbridge) and three West Virginia counties (Pendelton, Greenbrier, and Hardy) (Artz 1948, Bartgis & Wieboldt 1986, Bartgis 1987, USFWS 1989, Ludwig 1995, USDA Forest Service 2000).

Area of Occupancy: 126-2,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Area of occupancy is estimated to be approximately 220 square km, determined using a 4 km square grid cell size.

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: Approximately 56 occurrences are believed extant, 34 in Virginia and 22 in West Virginia.

Population Size Comments: Populations fluctuate dramatically but most are of very low numbers (typically <50 individuals). The most recent counts from all sites total 3854 plants altogether.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Few (4-12)
Viability/Integrity Comments: Approximately 11 occurrences are believed to have excellent or good viability, with 4 additional occurrence believed to have good or fair viability.

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: (1) Construction of roads, railroads, and hiking trails has impacted occurrences in the past; several occurrences are now located adjacent to these corridors where they may be impacted by erosion or maintenance activities.
(2) Flood control measures are a potential threat at some locations (e.g. South Fork Valley of West Virginia) (Bartgis in litt.); one barren has already been destroyed by a stream dam (Dix 1990).
(3) Most extant occurrences are moderately to severely browsed by deer, which is considered by some to be a prime threat to the species (USFWS 1989); quantifying the impact of deer browsing is an area of active research (Ludwig pers. comm.).
(4) Moderately xeric sites may be subject to encroachment of exotic plant species such as Centauria maculata and numerous grasses (Dix 1990). Such encroachment is a particular concern forArabis serotina since it does not tolerate competition well; it is generally restricted to the more open portions shale barren communities.
(5) A significant threat to the insect pollinators of A. serotina is presented by the spraying of Dimilin and BT insecticides for gypsy moth control. Because of the open habitat, shale barren insects are maximally exposed to pesticides (Dix 1990). Dimilin is a broad-spectrum biocide that persists until leaf fall and up to a few years in the duff and would have a long-term impact of shale-barren slopes. All insect occurrences on shale-barrens sprayed with Dimilin should be considered extirpated (Schweitzer in litt). BT is lepidopteran-specific and only persists for roughly one week (Dix 1990). Application during larval development may have devastating impacts on the fauna, however.
(6) Finally, the very small number of individuals within many occurrences suggests that the long-term persistence of these occurrences is uncertain, especially considering that populations tend to fluctuate dramatically.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Short-term Trend Comments: Short term decline of >30%.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 50-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: Long term decline of >50%. One barren was destroyed through inundation caused by the damming of a stream (Dix 1990). Five shale barrens in West Virginia and three in Virginia were partially destroyed by road construction, two additional barrens in Virginia were partially destroyed by railroad construction, and one was crossed by a hiking trail (USFWS 1989).

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Occurs in very stressed environment and therefore cannot tolerate much disturbance.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: A narrow endemic known only from shale barren regions of Virginia and West Virginia; one of the most restricted shale barren endemics. Occurrences have been documented in six Virginia counties (Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, Highland, Page, Rockbridge) and three West Virginia counties (Pendelton, Greenbrier, and Hardy) (Artz 1948, Bartgis & Wieboldt 1986, Bartgis 1987, USFWS 1989, Ludwig 1995, USDA Forest Service 2000).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States VA, WV

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
VA Alleghany (51005), Augusta (51015), Bath (51017), Highland (51091), Page (51139), Rockbridge (51163), Rockingham (51165)
WV Greenbrier (54025), Hardy (54031), Pendleton (54071)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 South Branch Potomac (02070001)+, South Fork Shenandoah (02070005)+, North Fork Shenandoah (02070006)+, Upper James (02080201)+, Maury (02080202)+
05 Greenbrier (05050003)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A biennial herb, typically reaching 40-60 cm in height (sometimes up to 100 cm) and producing a wide, highly branched inflorescence and tiny white flowers. In bloom mid-July to October.
Technical Description: Arabis serotina is a facultative biennial herb characterized in its nonreproductive stage by an inconspicuous basal rosette of lobed leaves. Average rosette size measured by Rouse (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1991) over six sites ranged from 1.6 to 3.5 cm. In its reproductive stage, the basal leaves shrivel as the slender stem grows or "bolts" and the inflorescence develops. The paniculate inflorescence is composed of from 3 to 41 branches, and measures from 20-40 cm wide. Mature plants range in height from 41 to 97 cm. Small whitish flowers, with calyxes from less than 2.0 to 3.3 mm long, bear fruits (siliques) which range from 4.3 to 7.94 cm. Seeds are usually yellowish brown, with a narrowly elliptic body, 1.5 to 2.0 times longer than broad with a narrow wing measuring from 0.1 to 0.2 mm (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1991).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Often confused with Arabis laevigata var. burkii which occupies a variety of habitats, including shale barrens. A. laevigata var. burkii flowers in April and May, while A. serotina flowers from mid-July to September. Arabis serotina has narrower leaves, those of the stem are not auricled at the base, the inflorescence is more branched, and the flowers are smaller than in Arabis laevigata var. burkii.

Recent work by Wieboldt (1987) that elevated the taxon to a distinct entity has outlined the differences between this taxon and A. laevigata var. burkii. Differences, as taken from Wieboldt (1987), are transcribed below:
A. Arabis laevigata var. burkii 1. Plant height (cm): 41.07 (21.0 - 66.6) 2. Number of branches: 2.1 (0 - 9) 3. Height of lowest branch (cm): 11.33 (6.5 - 37.6) 4. Inflorescence width (cm): 12.17 (7.0 - 21.2) 5. Calyx length (mm): 3.83 (2.9 - 4.8) 6. Silique length (cm): 7.62 (5.25 - 9.78)
B. Arabis serotina 1. Plant height (cm): 52.81 (41.0 - 97.0) 2. Number of branches: 19.2 (3 - 41) 3. Height of lowest branch (cm): 24.40 (13.0 - 40.0) 4. Inflorescence width (cm): 28.19 (22.0 - 40.0) 5. Calyx length (mm): 2.55 (2.0 - 3.3) 6. Silique length (cm): 5.76 (4.30 - 7.94)

Duration: BIENNIAL
Reproduction Comments: Arabis serotina flowers in August (Keener 1970). Diminished reproductive output brought about by deer grazing may lead to extirpation of some populations. Most species of Arabis are pollinated by small insects, such as surfid flies, and bees in the genera Apis, Halictus, and Adrena. Autogamy is possible in most species.
Known Pests: SHEEP & GOATS; DEER.
Ecology Comments: Populations are fairly small at all locations, most w/fewer than 20 individuals. In WV A. serotina usually occurs w/in a meter of the base of a tree or away from tree bases in large stands of Carex communis, C. pensylvanica or Danthonia sp. Assoc. species in both WV & VA include Trifolium virginicum, Allium oxyphilum, Clematis albicoma etc.
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Barrens, Forest/Woodland, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: An endemic of shale deposits, occurring only on sparsely-vegetated xeric, south or west-facing shale slopes (barrens) at elevations from 400 to 600 meters. Populations are known from both the shale openings and shale woodlands adjacent to the shale openings. All extant occurrences are on shales of Devonian age (Ludwig pers. comm.); a single occurrence was known from the Martinsburg shale of Ordovician age, but it is no longer extant.

The term "shale barren" is a general reference to certain mid-Appalachian slopes that possess the following features: 1) southern exposures, 2) slopes of 20-70 degrees and 3) a covering of lithologically hard and weather-resistant shale or siltstone fragments (Dix 1990). These barrens support sparse, scrubby growth; frequently-observed species include Quercus ilicifolia, Q. prinus, Q. rubra, Pinus virginiana, Juniperus virginiana, Prunus alleghaniensis, Rhus aromatica, Celtis tenuifolia, Kalmia latifolia, Bouteloua curtipendula, Andropogon scoparius, Phlox subulata var. brittonii, Silene caroliniana ssp. pensylvanica, Sedum telephoides, Antennaria spp., Aster spp., and Solidago spp. (Dix 1990). Local variations in associated flora may be considerable (Braunschweig et al 1999, Jarrett et al 1996, Keener 1970, Keener 1983, Wieboldt 1987).

Although adequate moisture is available for most plants within the substrata of the shale layers, adverse surface conditions act to restrict germination and establishment success of plants (Platt 1951). It is primarily the effect of high surface temperatures that limits plant reproductive success in these habitats. Surface soil temperatures are often well above the physiological tolerance of most plant species, reaching maximum temperatures of 63 degrees Celsius (Dix 1990). Such temperatures are high enough to cause direct damage to seedlings. For additional detailed information pertaining to the shale-barren community, see Dix (1990).

Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Monitoring needs include the tracking of population trends with respect to current management regimes. Monitoring should also track habitat and threats to occurrences and habitat. Current research efforts should provide all information necessary to formulate conservation needs for A. serotina. Management needs are primarily limited to exempting shale barren communities from pesticide application for gypsy moth control. Protecting plants from deer browse also is important. No active management of shale barrens appears necessary.
Restoration Potential: The recovery potential of A. serotina is largely unknown. This species is the most threatened of all the shale barren endemics and the reason for this is not entirely clear.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Land protection must encompass the land needed to protect against potential impacts to A. serotina populations and their pollinators. Shale barren habitats must be protected with sufficient buffer of scrub oak woodland or other habitat type to reduce the effects of pesticide application and other factors.
Management Requirements: Management needs are primarily limited to exempting shale barren communities from pesticide application for gypsy moth control. Preventing application of Dimilin and BT is necessary in order to preserve the insect fauna that pollinates the species.

No active management of shale barrens appears necessary (Dix 1990). The influence of fire on barren formation and maintenance is likely negligible (Dix 1990). Fires do not typically carry through steep barrens where surfaces are bare and tree cover sparse (Platt 1951). These barrens remain open and do not require fire for opening maintenance. On barrens with shallower slopes, herbaceous cover may get relatively thick and fire may play a sole in limiting shrub succession (Thompson in litt.). Periods of severe drought may also act to eliminate shrub encroachment and reestablish the barren character (Bartgis in litt.).

Management agreements should be sought to protect all extant populations from pesticide applications for gypsy moth control or other reasons.

Monitoring Requirements: Monitoring should track population trends with respect to current management regimes. Monitoring efforts should track population size (number of individuals), reproduction output (number of viable siliques), germination success, and population demography (size class of individuals).

Monitoring of habitat should also be considered to track changes over time. Changes in habitat may be first observed as as subtle changes in the vegetational composition of the shale barren, or increases in shrub encroachment.

Monitoring of land-use practices on adjoining lands should also be undertaken. These practices include the spraying of lands by the U.S. Forest Service for gypsy moth control. Such practices may prove deleterious to the barrens and A. serotina populations.

In order to adequately monitor occurrences, annual visits to extant sites should be conducted to count flowering plants, fruit production per plant, note population boundaries and observe changes and threats to habitat (Ludwig pers. comm.). In large populations, grids may be established to map locations of individuals. Successive monitoring will provide information regarding population maintenance, reproduction (silique production, seed germination and establisment), and age class (basal rosette versus bolting individuals).

In large populations, habitat monitoring of shale barrens may be conducted through an estimate of bare ground and percent cover of each species found within each grid. At smaller sites, rough estimates of may be made within the confines of each population border. For tracking gross changes in habitat, photo-monitoring stations (land-based and/or aerial) may be established. These may be particularly useful in tracking shrub encroachment.

Close working ties with adjacent landowners and the U.S. Forest Service may provide detailed information pertaining to land-use practices on adjoining lands.

Monitoring Programs: The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is responsible for monitoring all Virginia populations of A. serotina. Monitoring consists of counting flowering plants and observing changes/threats to habitat. Contact: Mike Likins, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Washington Bldg., Richmond, VA 23219. Telephone No. (804) 371-0633.

The West Virginia Natural Heritage Program is currently monitoring populations of A. serotina in the state and adjacent areas in Virginia. In addition, a grid system for population size, plant movement and reproductive success is currently being installed on a federal property within the state. Contact: P. J. Harmon, Botanist, West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 67, Elkin, WV 26241. Telephone No. (304) 637-0245.

Management Research Programs: An extensive research program is underway in Virginia to study the life history of A. serotina. Six populations are being intensively studied. This research is funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services responsible for conducting the research. Contact: Garrie Ralph, 1943 Kings Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060.

The West Virginia Natural Heritage Program is currently conducting a five-year study on the demography of a population of A. serotina occurring on a federal property in West Virginia. Funding has been available through the USFWS, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, and the federal landowner. A 2-hectare grid has been placed on a shale barren in which all plants are mapped and information pertaining to age classes and number of viable siliques is recorded. Contact: P. J. Harmon, West Virginia Natural Hertiage Program, Department of Natural Resources, P.O. box 67, Elkins, WV 26241. Telephone No. (304) 637-0245.

Management Research Needs: Current research efforts should provide all necessary information necessary to formulate conservation needs for A. serotina (Ludwig pers. comm.).
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 17Nov1987
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Rouse, G.D. (1987), rev. Ludwig/Maybury (1996), rev. L. Morse (1999), rev. C. Nordman (2009)
Management Information Edition Date: 15Dec1990
Management Information Edition Author: Wayne R. Ostlie
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 20Dec1989

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Artz, L. 1948. Plants of the shale-barrens of the tributaries of the James River in Virginia. Castanea 13:141-145.

  • Bartgis, R., and T. Wieboldt. 1986. Range-wide status summary of Arabis serotina. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report.

  • Bartgis, R.L. 1987. Distribution and Status of Arabis serotina Steele populations in West Virginia. West Virginia Academy of Sciences/Botany Section 59:73-78.

  • Braunschweig, S.H., E.T. Nilsen, and T.F. Wieboldt. 1999. The mid-Appalachian shale barrens. Pages 83-98 in: R.C. Anderson, J.S. Fralish, and J.M. Baskin. Savannas, barrens, and rock outcrop plant communities of North America. Cambridge University Press, NY.

  • Dix, E. 1990. Element Stewardship Abstract for Appalachian Shale Barrens. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA.

  • Hopkins, M. 1937. Arabis in eastern and central North America. Rhodora 39:63-98, 105-148, 155-160.

  • Jarrett, R.J., F.S. Gilliam, J.D. May, P.J. Harmon, and C.M. Jessee. 1996. Ecological study of Shale Barren Rock Cress (Arabis serotina Steele) at NAVSECGRUACT, Sugar Grove, WV. Final report prepared for the West Virginia Natural Heritage Program. 15 pp.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Keener, C.S. 1970. The natural history of the mid-Appalachian shale barren flora. Pages 215-248 in: P.C. Holt, ed. The Distributional History of the Biota of the Southern Appalachians. II. Flora. Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, VA.

  • Keener, C.S. 1983. Distribution and biohistory of the endemic flora of the mid-Appalachian shale barrens. Botanical Review 49(1):65-115.

  • Ludwig, C., and N. van Alstine. No date. Description and taxonomy [Arabis serotina]. Recovery Plan for Arabis serotina.

  • Ludwig, J.C. 1995. An inventory of shale barrens on the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. Nat. Heritage Tech. Rep. 95-2. Virginia Dep. Con. and Recreation, Div. of Nat. Heritage, Richmond, VA. 29 pp. plus appendix.

  • Natural Heritage Program Files. 1996. Unpublished.

  • Platt, R.B. 1951. An ecological study of the mid-Appalachian shale barrens and the plants endemic to them. Ecol. Monogr. 21:269-300.

  • Strausbaugh, P. D. and E. L. Core. 1977. Flora of West Virginia, 2nd. ed. Seneca Books, Grantsville, WV 1079 p.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1989. Final listing rules approved for 10 species. Endangered Species Tech. Bull. 14(8):7-8.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1988. Shale Barren Rock Cress. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 13, 11-12:5.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1989. Arabis serotina (shale barren rock cress) determined to be an endangered species. Federal Register 54(133):29655-29658.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1991. Shale barren rock cress (Arabis serotina Steele) Recovery Plan. Newton Corner, Mass. p.40. Prepared by J. Christopher Ludwig and Nancy van Alstine. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region.

  • U.S. Forest Service (USFS). 2000. Biological Assessment for Threatened and Endangered Species on the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia. Milwaukee, WI. USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region. pp.141.

  • Wieboldt, T.F. 1987. The shale barren endemic, Arabis serotina (Brassicaceae). Sida 12(2):381-389.

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