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Cascadilla Gorge offers a safe haven for rare species

Leedy's roseroot

Read the full story by Anna Hooper ’25, a communications intern at Cornell Botanic Gardens.

Thanks to a new conservation effort by Cornell Botanic Gardens, one of the rarest plants in the U.S. is now protected in the walls of Cascadilla Gorge.

Cornell Botanic Gardens staff has successfully established a population of the federally threatened Leedy’s roseroot and plans to foster a long-lasting population in the Cascadilla Gorge natural area.

Leedy’s roseroot, or Rhodiola integrifolia ssp. leedyi, exists only in five original sites across the U.S., including one along the west side of Seneca Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes Region. It boasts a lush red-orange flower and elongated stem, with waxy leaves extending throughout the length of the plant. It derives its name from the rose-like smell of its roots.

“With only one extant, original population in New York, there is always a risk of something happening and the plant becoming locally extinct,” said Todd Bittner, director of natural areas. “Establishing a second reproducing viable population is a key conservation strategy to help safeguard the species.”