Description: Short's goldenrod, a member of the sunflower family, is a perennial plant generally about 2 feet tall with alternately arranged leaves. It is distinguished from other common goldenrods by its completely glabrous (hairless) and tri-nerved leaves and by having the longest leaves at the middle of the stem. It forms a bright yellow bloom August through October.
Range: Short's goldenrod is endemic to the Blue Licks area of north central Kentucky, an area encompassing the junction of Roberston, Nicholas, and Fleming counties. Historically, the plant was known from Rock Island in the Ohio River near Louisville; the island was later submerged by dam construction.
Habitat: Short's goldenrod is found at the edges or in openings of oak and hickory forest and is associated with thin limestone soils.
Life History: The occurrence of Short's goldenrod in the Blue Licks area is linked to the area's historic use as a gathering site for migration bison. These herds were attracted to the mineral springs, and their landscape. It is believed that this goldenrod adapted to these conditions and grew in the denuded areas created by the bison. Plants begin growth in spring and reach full size by August. The plants have a spreading rhizome that forms multiple emergent stems. Flowers are insect pollinated and produce seeds in the fall.
Causes of Decline: It is possible that this plant was associated with bison movement and became rare as the bison disappeared. The plant may never have been common, but the gap in its range between the Ohio River and Blue Licks suggest it was once more widespread. Land use changes including the disruption of natural forest cycles and the use of fescue and other pasture grasses have caused the decline of this species.