Get to know an endangered plant – Virginia Sneezeweed

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I think the sneezeweed has one of the funniest names ever given to a flower, but the sneezeweed won’t actually make everyone sneeze! It got its name from early settlers who would dry the yellow flower heads and grind them into a snuff. People sniffed the snuff to make them sneeze and open stuffy noses.

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The Virginia sneezeweed was first discovered in 1936. It is a rare perennial wildflower found only in Virginia and Missouri. This herbaceous plant has yellow flowers and can reach a height of 3.5 feet. Virginia sneezeweed closely resembles common sneezeweed. The two are differentiated by a number of characteristics including leaf shape, stem and leaf hairs, and habitat requirements. flowers from early July to October, with peak flowering occurring in late July to early August at most sites.

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This wetland plant is found on the shores of naturally-occurring shallow, seasonally flooded limestone ponds (less than 0.1 to 8 acres in size) along the western edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley. The species was long thought to be limited to Virginia, but, by 2000, results of morphological and genetic investigations supported the recognition of Virginia sneezeweed populations in southern Missouri. Since that time, intensive surveys by Missouri botanists have located 53 occurrences in eight counties in southern Missouri.

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Virginia sneezeweed is listed as state endangered in Virginia and Missouri, and is also federally listed as threatened. Five populations are within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia and many others are found on private lands.The life cycle of Virginia sneezeweed is closely tied to the natural hydrologic regime of the ponds and the low nutrient conditions of the acidic soils. Wetland habitats are vulnerable to land uses that may result in erosion, siltation, toxic or nutrient runoff, permanent flooding, dredging, or draining. Landowners can protect sinkhole ponds against these effects by following best management practices that maintain or protect water quality and quantity in fragile wetland communities.

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If you do spot one please note were it is (your phones GPS can really come in handy for this) and tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as soon as you can.

Find out more where I did. . .

www.centerforplantconservation.org

www.dcr.virginia.gov

www.fws.gov/northeast

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