Rare Plants, Creatures At Home in Mountain State

ELKINS -Some lands saved by the West Virginia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy are home to a few plants and creatures found no place else on earth.

An example is the Diamond Darter fish found only in the Elk River.

Fewer than 125 of the sparkly fish have been seen over the past 30 years. Once found in five states, the Diamond Darter today survives only in West Virginia’s Elk River.

The Cheat Mountain salamander is a small, threatened woodland salamander found only on Cheat Mountain, and a few nearby mountains, in the eastern highlands of the Mountain State. It and the West Virginia Spring Salamander are the only vertebrate species with ranges restricted to West Virginia.

The West Virginia Spring salamander is known only to be located in one cave in Greenbrier County.

Another critter, the West Virginia Flying Squirrel can be found only in the mountains in and around the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and in one county in Virginia.

TNC preserved areas also host some plants that thrive only in West Virginia.

The only place on earth to find the Smoke Hole bergamont, a small mint, is in the Smoke Hole region of the Eastern Panhandle.

Yellow buckwheat is found only on dry habitats called shale barrens along the Virginia and West Virginia border and nowhere else.

A large population occurs on TNC’s Slaty Mountain Preserve in Monroe County.

Barbara’s Buttons is a very rare pink wildflower found only along a few mountain streams in the Appalachians. A healthy population exists along the upper Shavers Fork of Cheat River on Cheat Mountain in Randolph County.

Prairie flax, a beautiful blue wildflower. lives in dry barren and prairie openings in the Smoke Hole, but otherwise found only west of the Mississippi River.

Virginia Spiraea, a white flowered shrub on the nation’s endangered species list, thrives only in Brush Creek Preserve in Mercer County.