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List of West Virginia Rare Plants

By John Lindell ; Updated September 21, 2017

The cost of progress, as in many states, has been the reduction of certain species of plants in West Virginia. Many of these rare plants are now scarce due to such things as road construction, pollution and the increased use of off-road vehicles. Destruction of habitat means these plants have fewer places in which to prosper. This leads to many winding up on various lists that label them as rare, threatened or endangered in the Mountaineer State.

Northeast Bulrush

The northeastern bulrush is a plant endangered in West Virginia and throughout the nation, a type of perennial grass that grows in and around ponds. The northeast bulrush, according to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website, exists in just three locations in the state, with two of these ponds close by to each other. Such factors as damage by grazing deer, flooding, poor water quality and the lack of other species that serve to protect these bulrushes as they grow contribute to their status.

Running Buffalo Clover

Running buffalo clover is so rare in West Virginia that until 1983 people thought it was extinct in the state. However, scientists discovered it still existed in the New River Gorge and subsequent investigations found other places where it grows. This clover produces a white flower with a purple hue from late spring through early summer. The construction of roads is a major cause of loss of habitat for this species of plant, which the DNR lists as endangered.

Virginia Spiraea

Virginia spiraea exists on just 24 streams within seven separate states, with West Virgina one of those. West Virginia actually has the most specimens of this shrub, with as many as perhaps 4,000 growing in its borders, according to the DNR. Virginia spirea grows to 7 feet high and has white flowers in clusters in June and into July. This shrub seems to depend on flooding by river and stream systems to “scour” the soil, allowing it to gain a foothold before other species do, as it needs sunlight to flourish. The advent of dams on these waterways and the clearing of land near streams for such activities as camping and fishing also hurt this threatened rare West Virginia plant.


Harperella is a plant that closely resembles a common roadside weed known as Queen Anne’s lace, except that it is not nearly as stout and the flowers are smaller. Both are part of the carrot family of plants and in West Virginia, Harperella grows near only three streams in the entire state. The DNR states that Harperella grows near the Potomac and Cacapon Rivers as well as next to parts of Sleepy Creek. The plant requires moist soil to thrive and flooding actually creates optimum conditions for this plant to do well. When a lack of flooding makes conditions too dry or too much water inundates an area, Harperella feels the effects. Water pollution also severely hurts this species


About the Author


John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.