This plant species is only found in Eastern Kentucky, in a single river canyon, the Red River Gorge. It grows there within the Daniel Boone National Forest, in Menifee, Powell, and Wolfe Counties. There it is limited to rock shelters, open caves with overhanging rock formations. It grows on sandy soil that has accumulated on the sandstone floors of the rock shelters. It grows behind the drip line, out of direct sunlight but not in the darkest shadows of the caves.
Solidago albopilosa is a perennial herb producing one or more erect stems from a woody caudex. It grows 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 inches) tall but it can reach 1 meter (39 inches) in height. It is covered in white hairs.
The leaves have oval or spatula-shaped serrated blades up to 8 or 9 centimeters (3.1 or 3.5 inches) long by 4 or 5 cm (1.5 or 2 in) wide, becoming smaller toward the end of the stem. The leaf blades are "so thin that coarse print is readable through [them]."
The inflorescence is a cluster of up to 30 flower heads, each roughly half a centimeter (0.2 inches) long. The head contains 3 to 5 tiny yellow ray florets and a few disc florets. The fruit is up to half a centimeter (0.2 inches) long including its pappus. Blooming occurs in September through November.
Other plants in this type of habitat and the surrounding forest include white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), yellow mandarin (Disporum lanuginosum), smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), Indian cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana), Nepalese browntop (Microstegium vimineum), partridge berry (Mitchella repens), clearweed (Pilea pumila), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), great rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), and maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium). Roundleaf catchfly (Silene rotundifolia), and littleflower alumroot (Heuchera parviflora) are common associates.
The main threat to this species is damage to its habitat during recreational activities in this section of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Hiking, camping, and rock climbing are popular pursuits in the area. Trampling destroys the plants, compacts the soil, and damages the seeds and rhizomes. Explorers invade the rock shelters and build fires, dump garbage, spread the seeds of invasive plants like garlic mustard, and dig in the soil for archaeological artifacts. Logging, another threat, opens the forest and increases light levels, decreases water, and increases the invasion of introduced species of plants.
- "Solidago albopilosa". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- Solidago albopilosa. Center for Plant Conservation.
- Solidago albopilosa. The Nature Conservancy.
- Solidago albopilosa. Flora of North America.
- Braun, E.L. 1942. A new species and a new variety of Solidago from Kentucky. Rhodora. 44: 1-4. IN: Solidago albopilosa. Center for Plant Conservation.
- White, D. L. and N. C. Drozda. (2006). Status of Solidago albopilosa Braun (White-Haired Goldenrod) (Asteraceae), a Kentucky Endemic. Castanea 71:2 124.
- Media related to Solidago albopilosa at Wikimedia Commons
- USDA Plants Profile for Solidago albopilosa (whitehair goldenrod)