Georgia rockcress is rare and endangered, with less than an estimated 5,000 plants in existence. The known plants are spread among 28 surveyed sites, nine in Georgia. Some of the surveyed sites have only two or three plants (Source: University of Georgia). Arabis georgiana Harper is native to Georgia and Alabama. It is possible there are more we are unaware of. Four Georgia rockcress populations are on conservation easements, with three more on either military bases or private preserves.
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is clearly concerned and is cultivating Georgia rockcress. Should you visit the botanical garden in March you can see it blooming in the public gardens.
When we discuss the effects invasive plants such as honeysuckle and privet have on native ecosystems, maybe we are not aware of the species being threatened. Arabis georgiana Harper is one of these species. It helps to put a name to what we are losing. It makes it personal.
Georgia rockcress was given Endangered Species Act Protection in 2014.
Georgia rockcress was documented by botanist Roland M. Harper in 1903. The plant bears his name, Arabis georgiana Harper. He was 25 years old when he discovered it. R.M. Harper continued his work for the State Geological Survey of Alabama for more than a half-century until his death in 1966.
He is a University of Georgia graduate. A short but interesting biographical essay about R.M. Harper is found here.
Georgia Rockcress description and habitat
It is a plant of shallow outcrops, rocky slopes, and the granite outcrops of the Piedmont.
The white flowers are small, 3/8″ across. Each has four petals surrounding light yellow stamens. They are borne in clusters atop thin stems up to three feet tall. It flowers in March and April and can be found in west Georgia and middle Alabama. Basal leaves are 1-3″ long. It is part of the Mustard family (Brassicaceae).
It is a short-lived perennial herb that is not aggressive in growth habit. Other plants, especially non-native invasives, out-compete it easily. Georgia rockcress hangs on regardless.
|Genus/species||Arabis georgiana Harper|
|Common name(s)||Georgia rockcress|
|Of note||native to Georgia and Alabama. Extremely endangered.|
|Water requirements||moist soil conditions, high|
|Soil quality||rich, well-drained, average, poor|
|Suggested use(s)||bog gardens, native collections, naturalized|
|Deciduous or evergreen||deciduous|
|Bloom period||early spring, mid to late spring|
|Exposure||full sun, afternoon shade, filtered light|