This project centers around the differences between the Solidago altissima and the S. shortii, or Common and Short’s Goldenrods, respectively, and endeavors to provide an explanation for the narrow endemism of shortii, relative to that of altissima. The Common Goldenrod has a range spanning from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico, while the Short’s is found only in two isolated locations in Kentucky and Indiana. They are rather similar to the untrained eye but further observation reveals drastic morphological differences between the seeds of the two species, with those of the Short’s being far larger than those of the common goldenrod despite the two species having pappi, or parachute-like tufts of hair, of virtually identical size.

There is not a large body of academic work regarding the Short’s goldenrod, and the majority of it focuses merely on describing the morphology and habitat of the species, rather than providing potential explanations as to why it is so rare. This project will primarily rely on data collected on the two species, in particular their cypselae, to attempt to provide a plausible explanation. Data collected shows that there is a very large difference in the size of the achenes of the two species but virtually none in the length of their pappi. Furthermore, the cypselae of S. shortii were demonstrated to have travelled approximately 12% farther and fall approximately 3 times as rapidly as those of the S. altissima under controlled laboratory conditions. This suggests that the morphology of the cypselae of the S. shortii are maladaptive to the anemochory upon which it must now rely to disperse its offspring.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 5-8-2017


Patrick J Calie

Department/Professional Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars


Languages, Cultures, and Humanities