The hidden Heuchera: How science Twitter uncovered a globally imperiled species in Pennsylvania, USA
The genus Heuchera is recognized as one of the most diverse endemic radiations of Saxifragaceae in North America, yet species delimitation and geographic distribution within the group remain controversial. Many species remain difficult to identify, including Heuchera alba, a narrow Appalachian endemic and globally imperiled (G2) taxon recorded only from West Virginia and Virginia that occurs in sympatry with H.pubescens and H. americana. A recent survey of the cliffside flora of the Shikellamy Bluffs, PA recorded dozens of Heuchera individuals that, through the use of social media, were positively identified as H. alba. Aided by examination of historical herbarium records, subsequent searches of similar habitats in Pennsylvania led to the discovery of seven more populations and established a significant range expansion for this rare species. The uncovering of H. alba in Pennsylvania is an exciting conservation outcome and an example of what can happen when botanists embrace a combination of modern and classical approaches to discovery and collaboration.
Schuette S, Folk RA, Cantley JT, Martine CT (2018) The hidden Heuchera: How science Twitter uncovered a globally imperiled species in Pennsylvania, USA. PhytoKeys 96: 87-97. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.96.23667